Pune: A devastating accident on the Pune-Mumbai Expressway near the Khandala exit which took place on Tuesday morning resulted in the loss of four lives, including three members of a family, while leaving many injured. The incident occurred when a chemical-laden tanker caught fire and exploded after colliding with a divider, as confirmed by police officials.
As per information, the mishap occurred on Kunegaon Bridge, between Lonavala and Khandala stretch. The tanker, transporting ethanol from Pune to Mumbai, lost control and crashed, igniting a fierce blaze that engulfed the vehicle. Fiery balls of the chemical substance rained down on motorists passing under the bridge, causing further casualties.
Authorities from the Pune rural police reported that the tanker carried three individuals. One of the individuals lost his life in the accident. While the other two occupants are critically injured and are receiving treatment at the Intensive Care Unit Of Pavana Hospital in Talegaon Dabhade. One of them has been identified as Chandrakant Gurav. The identities of the other occupants are yet to be determined.
Additionally, four motorists on the road below also sustained injuries, of which three died. The deceased have been identified as Savita Kailas Vare (35), Kushal Kailas Vare (9), and Ritesh Mahadu Koshire (17) all from Maval tehsil. The family was returning home from Lonavala when tragedy struck underneath the Kunegaon Bridge. They were struck by the falling chemical projectiles.
Reacting swiftly to the scene, Satya Sai Karthik, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Lonavla sub-division, stated, “Four persons have been killed while three are severely injured. We activated all emergency measures to gain control of the situation, halting vehicle movement to prevent any further untoward incidents.”
The accident resulted in the destruction of four vehicles, including the tanker itself. The ensuing fire caused a disruption in traffic flow for over three hours. To ensure the safety of emergency responders and facilitate investigative procedures, the affected section of the expressway was temporarily closed.
Lata Phad, in charge of the Highway Traffic Police (HSP) in Pune, provided further details, saying, “A major fire broke out in a chemical-laden tanker, claiming the life of one occupant and leaving two others, including the driver and cleaner, injured. Additionally, a woman passing on the road beneath the bridge also sustained injuries.” Efforts were made to rescue those critically injured, who were subsequently transferred to Pavana Hospital in Somatane Phata for specialized medical care.
Phad further added that heavy traffic was halted at the Urse and Khalapur toll plaza points, with smaller vehicles being diverted to the old Pune-Mumbai highway. After successfully extinguishing the fire, one lane was reopened, but it reignited at the accident site, necessitating another traffic stoppage to allow firefighters to focus on suppressing the flames. As a result, vehicle movement was suspended from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm, and traffic on the expressway only resumed after that time. Tow trucks were deployed to clear any immobilized vehicles along the affected stretch, further contributing to the restoration of normalcy.
Expressing his grief, Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra Dy Chief Minister expressed the tragic loss of life and called the accident ‘unfortunate’. Taking to social media, he stated, “Three other persons were injured in the accident and are being treated in a local hospital. I pray for their recovery.”
This incident raises serious concerns regarding the safety standards and protocols in place to ensure the secure transit of hazardous materials. Traffic officials reported that the explosion of the chemical-laden tanker caused significant disruption on the expressway, resulting in major inconvenience and frustration for commuters. Flights were missed, and work schedules were disrupted as traffic came to a standstill for an extended period.
Emergency services responded promptly, dispatching fire brigades, ambulances, and police personnel to the scene. Firefighters worked tirelessly to extinguish the blaze while ensuring the safety of commuters and nearby vehicles. However, due to the intensity of the fire and the volatile nature of the cargo, the firefighting efforts faced significant challenges. Even after the fire was extinguished, intermittent explosions occurred, prompting the highway police to halt traffic from both ends on the 93-kilometre stretch.