Monday, 30th October 2017

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Car crash kills model, injures actor

Night of party ends in tragedy as speeding Toyota with Vikram at wheel slams into pavement

By Our Bureau
  • Published 30.04.17
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The smashed Toyota Corolla Altis outside Tollygunge police station on Saturday afternoon.
Picture by Anup Bhattacharya

April 29: Sonika Singh Chauhan, a model, was killed and television heart-throb Vikram Chatterjee was injured when the Toyota Corolla Altis in which he was driving her home crashed into the kerb on Rashbehari Avenue.

The car hit the pavement's guard rails and a store, before spinning and hitting a post and then coming to a halt, a few hundred metres from Lake Mall, around 3.30am.

Sonika, 28, succumbed to her injuries about an hour after being shifted to Ruby General Hospital on EM Bypass. "When she was brought here, she was suffering from polytrauma - her nose and ears were bleeding profusely and she had head injuries. We tried everything we could for the next 40-45minutes but she was declared dead at 4.50am. Vikram Chatterjee's condition is stable at present," said an official of the hospital.

Chatterjee, 30, who was at the wheel, has received five stitches on his head and a team of doctors comprising a general surgeon, orthopaedic surgeon, neuro surgeon and a physician is monitoring his condition.

Sonika, who was scheduled to leave Calcutta for a few weeks for a shoot, was out partying on Friday night with her friends. She first went to Over The Top, the terrace at The Myx on Park Street, around 9pm. From there she hopped to Phoenix, the newest party den in the city at The Astor. She was joined by Tolly actors Vikram Chatterjee and Anindya Chatterjee.

Sonika was her usual party self through the night, happy singing, dancing and Snapchatting away, said friends. The group left Phoenix around 1.30am to head for UG Reincarnated, the party stop at The HHI. She is learnt to have left the nightclub well after 2.30am. Soon after, the music died.

A student of La Martiniere for Girls, one of Calcutta's leading models will be remembered by friends in school as an athlete, a dancer, a tomboy and Miss Popular.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee was learnt to be tracking Vikram's condition through the day. Public works, youth service and sports minister Aroop Biswas visited the injured actor.

Vikram as Raja became a household name on the small screen with the serial Saat Paake Bandha in 2010. The actor made his big screen debut in Mainak Bhaumik's 2012 movie Bedroom, and went on to feature in movies like Elar Char Adhyay, Ami Aar Amar Girlfriends, Britto, Hoichoi and, most notably as a badboy in Shaheb Bibi Golaam (2016).

Before that, Vikram went back to television with the soap Ichhenodi in 2015. Vikram's next movie Khoj is set to release on May 26. Directed by Arka Ganguly, it has him playing a police officer.

Preliminary investigation by the police suggested that the accident was an outcome of speeding. Police officers who inspected the wrecked car said the car appeared to have hit the roadside at "a very high speed". It was still not clear whether Vikram was driving under the influence of liquor, the officers added.

The police have started a suo motu case against Vikram under IPC sections 304A (causing death due to negligence) and 279 (rash driving).

Sonika Chauhan and Vikram Chatterjee at The Telegraph Food Guide Awards 2017, at The Park on March 25

The charges carry a maximum punishment of two years in jail and/or fine.

Although the Toyota Corolla Altis had several airbags, none of them was deployed.

Airbags, said experts, may not deploy if a vehicle continues to move even after a hit. They usually deploy when a vehicle comes to a sudden stop after impact because the trigger is linked to the vehicle's rate of deceleration. It may also not deploy if the direction of impact is not more frontal or squarely on the side but is a grazing, glancing kind. And it may also not deploy if the crash conditions are moderate and the program thinks a seat belt should be sufficient protection from a head or chest injury.

"Whether the car had developed some fault, is subject to investigation," said an officer of Tollygunge police station.

The sound of the early morning crash woke up people in the Lake Market neighbourhood. "There were two people in the car, which was badly damaged. Both had blood all over them. Someone called the police, who took them away," said a resident of the area.

Sonika lived in Hastings Court Tower on Garden Reach Road. Her body underwent post-mortem and was then taken to a mortuary where it will be kept till her family proceeds with the last rites.

Sonika's father Vijay Singh is a well-known horse trainer at the Royal Calcutta Turf Club. Sonika, a rider herself, was an equestrian enthusiast, and was very often seen cheering the horses and jockeys from the clubhouse of RCTC, on big race days like New Year's races or the Winter Derby.

On January 7 this year, she handed over the Pat Quinn Memorial Cup, a trophy instituted in memory of her grandfather (trainer Patrick Quinn), to her father, who had trained the winning horse Avarua.