India wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant crashed his car into a divider on an Uttarakhand highway at 5.30am on Friday after he fell asleep at the wheel but was able to scramble out of the burning vehicle in time, police said.
Rishabh, 25, is in ICU at a Dehradun hospital but is out of danger, a Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) statement said.
He “has two cuts on his forehead, a ligament tear in his right knee and has also hurt his right wrist, ankle, toe and has suffered abrasion injuries on his back”, the statement added.
The young cricketer was driving alone down NH58 from Delhi to hometown Roorkee to surprise his mother Saroj Pant and celebrate New Year with her, a doctor said. He was apparently travelling at high speed when his Mercedes-AMG GLE43 Coupe swerved, smashed through the iron railings on the divider and hit barriers on the right side at Narson Border, about 25km from Roorkee town.
The mangled road divider at the crash site. PTI picture
The car skidded about 200 metres before stopping and catching fire. Some police officers who sought anonymity suggested that Rishabh was twice lucky. His failure to wear his seat belt did not lead to serious injury. He was able to quickly come out of the already aflame car “that was completely burnt in minutes”.
They clarified this was sheer good fortune and that every driver and passenger should at all times wear their seat belts, which can be life savers. Eyewitnesses said a shaken Rishabh told them: “Aaj main bach gaya (I was able to survive today).”
News agency PTI quoted Dr Sushil Nagar, who attended to Rishabh in a Roorkee hospital where he was taken first, as saying that most of the injuries were caused “because he had jumped out of the car by breaking a window” and landed on the road.
“I spoke to him (in hospital). He wanted to surprise his mother and was going home,” PTI quoted Dr Nagar as saying.
The charred remains of Pant’s car. PTI picture
Residents of Hammadpur Jhala village, near the accident site, said the cricketer requested two young motorcycle riders, who were passing by, to help him reach hospital.
The youths — Rajat Kumar and Nishu Kumar — gave Rishabh a blanket and took him to the Roorkee hospital.It’s not clear whether Rishabh rode their motorcycle to the hospital. His family arrived soon, and the cricketer was later shifted to Max Hospital in Dehradun, 70km away.
The accident happened near a bend in the highway where a mound of sand on the roadside narrows the lane’s width by about eight feet, some villagers told the media. They said Rishabh may have failed to see the mound because of fog and the bend. However, the police’s claim that Rishabh had fallen asleep leaves the mound’s possible role in the accident unclear.
“It’s an accident-prone spot because the width of the highway is eight feet less here. The mound of sand has been there for the past two years. It’s not visible from a distance because of the curve in the road,” a villager told reporters.
The superintendent of police, Haridwar Rural, said: “The cricketer fell asleep while driving and hit the divider. We are probing the matter. Any flaw in the road will be corrected.”
A video, shot on a mobile phone, shows Rishabh talking to someone while sitting on the ground at the accident site and wiping blood from the right side of his forehead with the edge of a black blanket in which he is wrapped. He is seen turning to the person filming the scene and requesting him to stop.
In another video, a villager appears to be collecting currency notes scattered near the car and stashing them inside his pocket. Dr Ashish Yagnik, a doctor at Max Hospital, said Rishabh was stable and “out of any danger”.
“Test reports are awaited. Doctors including orthopaedic and plastic surgeons are at work,” he said in the afternoon. Later in the evening, he said Rishabh had been shifted to the ICU after his MRI reports arrived.
BCCI honorary secretary Jay Shah said in a statement: “The BCCI is in constant touch with Rishabh’s family while the medical team is in close contact with the doctors currently treating Rishabh.” Chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said the state government was keeping “a close watch” on Rishabh’s condition and would “bear the cost of his treatment”.