| Foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee being brought out of the air force helicopter in Calcutta before being flown to Delhi. Picture by Amit Datta
April 8: Fully conscious, foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee was driven out of the Nadia district hospital with his head swathed in bandages at 8.15 this morning.
A convoy of 20 cars, which carried army doctors and a posse of security personnel, travelled about 30 km to a village in Chapra where an air force chopper was waiting on the bank of the Jalangi.
It flew to Calcutta, from where a special plane took Mukherjee to the capital.
A stonechip-laden lorry lost control after a tyre puncture and crashed into Mukherjee’s car around 9.45 last night.
Mukherjee, who was returning to Calcutta after opening a book fair in Murshidabad, needed 15 stitches on the head.
At the makeshift helipad, neurologist Lt Col Suresh Sirohi and two other army doctors supervised Mukherjee’s shift to the chopper. It took off at 9 am.
Congress legislature party leader Manas Bhuniya, who was also hurt, was flown to the city in the same helicopter.
The lorry driver, Gautam Yadav, a resident of Barasat in North 24-Parganas, has been arrested.
At Birpara More, the lorry was lying on the roadside this morning and some villagers were clearing glass shards from the spot. “We removed it from the middle of the road as it was creating a snarl. Hundreds of vehicles had got stranded,” said Dulal Patra, who owns an STD booth nearby.
Mukherjee’s white Ambassador had been taken to the Nakashipara police station.
The residents heard a deafening crash last night.
“It was dark except for a few dim streetlights and the headlights. We first saw a cover of smoke and dust and then Pranabbabu, crying in pain,” said college student Mita Saha, who rushed to the accident site with many others.
Tapan Dutta, a building contractor, said the police arrived while the villagers were planning a rescue mission and told them not to touch the blood-splattered minister.
Mukherjee was put in a police vehicle and driven to the block hospital 2 km away.
Block medical officer Partha Saha put 12 stitches on his head.
“Pranabbabu was groaning during the stitching. But he endured well,” Saha said.
Mukherjee was shifted to the Shaktinagar district hospital around 11.
All the doctors in the hospital — and some from local nursing homes — were summoned by the district’s chief medical officer, who formed a 20-member team with himself at the helm.
Three more stitches were put on the minister’s head at the operation theatre there.
A team from the Bangur Institute of Neurology led by neurosurgery head Parimal Tripathy was despatched from Calcutta. It reached Krishnagar at 3 am and ordered a CT scan.
Mukherjee was taken to a nursing home for the scan around 3.30. Around the same time arrived a team from Command Hospital in Calcutta.
“The scan to look for blood clots and internal haemorr-hage found nothing harmful. However, Mukherjee’s blood pressure was fluctuating,” said Mrinal Kanti Biswas, the chief medical officer.
Bhuniya was admitted to SSKM Hospital today. “There was a thunderous sound and a severe jolt as the lorry rammed into our car. Everything went dark after that,” Bhuniya, himself a doctor, said.
He remembered feeling a seething pain on his collarbone and shoulders and seeing Mukherjee “bleeding and unconscious, with the head leaning in front and feet stuck under the seat”.
“Maa Kali has saved him,” Mukherjee’s 77-year-old sister Annapurna said in his ancestral village, in the Kirnahar area of Birbhum, some 240 km from Calcutta.