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Six youths killed in highway crash

- Call centre team was returning from Kolaghat dhaba

Four young call centre employees were among six persons killed in a car-truck crash on NH 6 in Howrah early on Sunday while returning from a night out in Kolaghat.

Two other employees of the call centre, TechSoft, and the driver of the Mahindra Scorpio they had hired from Watgunge suffered critical injuries in the accident on a road where rash driving is rampant.

The casualties were Debalina Bol, 18, Varsha Mahato, 19, Indranil Pal, 19, Debanjan Basu, 24, and Ravi Jaiswara, 22. The identity of the sixth victim couldn’t be immediately confirmed.

Sandip Rout, who owns TechSoft, confirmed that at least four of the dead were his employees. “Varsha was a regular employee while the rest were trainees who hadn’t been formally inducted,” he said.

Ravi was a recruitment agent who had helped them get into TechSoft.

Witnesses told police that the Scorpio hit the divider at speed and flipped in the air before landing on the other flank, where a brick-laden truck coming from the opposite direction crashed into it.

“All nine persons in the Scorpio were flung out of the car on impact. It was travelling at 120 to 130kmph and the crash reduced it to a mangled mass of steel. We reached the spot within five minutes of being informed and found nine people who were either dead or critically injured,” said an officer at Domjur police station.

The four injured were taken to Howrah District Hospital, where one of the women was declared brought dead. Call centre employees Tamal Saha and Ambar Ali were later shifted to private hospitals.

Md Tajuddin, the injured driver, told Metro from his hospital bed that a youth whose name he could not recall had hired the Scorpio around 9.30pm on Saturday for a trip to and from Kolaghat.

“We picked up the other boys and girls from different places. By the time the last of them had joined the group, it was already around midnight. They asked me to take them to a nightclub near Ruby, where they spent around two hours,” he recounted.

Tajuddin said the group’s decision to go to a dhaba in Kolaghat was taken after they stepped out of the nightclub. “I had refused to go but relented after some persuading. We reached Kolaghat around 3am. They ordered food and alcohol and asked me to join them, which I did,” he said.

The 22-year-old driver blamed a man who suddenly came in front of the car for the accident. “I braked but the car rammed into the divider. I lost consciousness after that,” he said.

Victim Indranil, who had grown up in a joint family in Bansdroni, was his widowed mother’s main support. “His father died when he was barely a year and a half old. His elder sister is married and his brother is undergoing treatment in a home for the mentally ill,” uncle Asit said.

At Bidhannagar in Picnic Garden, where Varsha lived, relatives and neighbours remembered her as a bright, responsible girl. “She had just finished college. It’s hard to believe she is no more,” a neighbour said.