Hailstorm that drowned shouts for help – TCS techie recounts hour of accident horror, colleague on ventilator in Sikkim hospital

The Telegraph

NIRMAL MANGAR

(From left) Krishna Karthik and Durga Prasad at STNM Hospital in Gangtok on Monday. Pictures by Prabin Khaling

Gangtok, April 15: Krishna Karthik, one of the survivors in the group of TCS techies from Calcutta, said he shouted for half an hour in a raging hailstorm yesterday after the SUV carrying him and six colleagues skidded off the road and rolled down an incline.

Yesterday, one of the software engineers, identified as Priya Paul by two of her colleagues, died in STNM Hospital. The driver, Kesang Namgyal died at the accident spot.

TCS, which released a statement after the accident, said: “We are extremely sorry to hear about the untimely demise of our colleague. Our officials are in touch with the family and we are helping the authorities with any information they may require.”

Arpita Saha, another TCS engineer, has been put on ventilator at the Central Referral Hospital on the campus of the Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences. Her condition was stated to be critical by doctors there.

The Mahindra Bolero, carrying the seven techies, was driving back from a trip to Nathu-la, Chhangu Lake and Baba Mandir when the accident happened at 9th Mile around 5.30pm yesterday. “The rain was too heavy and there was a hailstorm as well. We could sense that the driver was finding it difficult to manoeuvre the vehicle because of the rain. The moment the car took a turn, it swerved off the road and rolled down a slope. When I regained consciousness, I was lying somewhere in a bush. I cried my lungs out but the thunderstorm was so strong nobody could hear me,” said Karthik, a 26-year-old engineer from Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.

“It was the most dreadful moment of my life. I was unable to move my legs and there was a severe pain in my head. For a moment I thought there was no chance of my survival,” he said from the hospital bed at STNM Hospital in Gangtok.

According to Karthik, local people took him to the hospital half an hour later.

Karthik said he has been working with TCS for the last six months. He and most of the others in the group stay at Salt Lake in Calcutta. “I spoke to my seniors at TCS in Calcutta; they may reach Gangtok by this evening,” he said.

Karthik’s colleague Durga Prasad, who suffered injuries on the head and leg, said the team had set off for the daylong trip from Gangtok around 9.30am yesterday.

“It was bright and sunny in the morning. We first visited Nathu-la, followed by Baba Mandir and Chhangu Lake. We clicked pictures on the way and never thought that this would happen to us,” said Prasad, who hails from Hyderabad.

“I was in a seat in the middle row and did not realise what was happening. I found myself lying in hospital when I regained consciousness,” said the 25-year-old.

The group had reached Gangtok on Saturday afternoon.

“As Monday is a holiday for us (on account of Poila Baisakh), we decided to visit the three places in the weekend,” said Prasad.

The others in the group were Niteshwar Kushwaha, 26, from Uttar Pradesh, Ganeshwar Das, 25, and Subhramukta Rana, 25, both from Odisha.

Arpita, who is believed to be the most critical, is 27 years old and from Meghalaya. Priya was from Madhya Pradesh.

Apart from Arpita, all the others are in STNM Hospital.

A neurosurgeon at the Central Referral Hospital, Barun Kumar Singh, said Arpita’s condition was critical. “She has profuse internal bleeding in the chest. The patient has been sedated and put on ventilator. She was given two units of blood and another two units will be given later. I have spoken to her father who is on the way to Gangtok. Her condition will be assessed tomorrow,” Singh said.

Doctor Yogesh Verma, the medical superintendent of STNM Hospital, said the condition of the five others was stable. “They, too, have multiple fractures on the head, legs, and shoulders. But their condition is stable.”

A post-mortem was conducted on Priya Paul’s body last night. The body is kept at the mortuary of STNM Hospital and will be released to her family.

Today, no permits were issued to tourists to visit Nathu-la as the JN Marg was yet to be cleared after last night’s landslide.

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