Mumbai bridge collapse: Structural auditor sent to police custody

A local court has remanded structural auditor Neeraj Kumar Desai, who was arrested in connection with the foot overbridge collapse in south Mumbai that left six people dead, to police custody till March 25, 2019

Neeraj Kumar Desai, a director at Prof DD Desai’s Associated Engineering Consultants and Analysts Pvt Ltd, the firm that was contracted by the Mumbai civic body to audit the ill-fated foot overbridge at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), has been sent to police custody till March 25, 2019. The firm was given a contract by the Mumbai civic body to audit the ill-fated bridge at CSMT railway station, along with 74 other foot over-bridges across the metropolis.

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The structural auditor has been booked under IPC section 304-II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) by the Azad Maidan police. Offence under the section is punishable up to life imprisonment. Desai, who was arrested on March 18, 2019, was the first arrest in the case. He was produced before a magistrate’s court, where the police sought his custody for carrying out further probe into the March 14 tragedy. According to the police, Desai’s firm had submitted incorrect structural audit report of the 40-year-old bridge. The police sought Desai’s custody on the ground that they had to recover documents related to the audit report and also look into the roles of civic and railway officials.

Structural auditor arrested for Mumbai foot overbridge collapse

A structural auditor was arrested in connection with last week’s foot overbridge collapse that left six people dead, police said

March 19, 2019: The Mumbai Police, on March 18, 2019, arrested Neeraj Kumar Desai, whose firm DD Desai’s Associated Engineering Consultant and Analysts Private Ltd, had reportedly carried out the structural audit of the foot overbridge connected to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) railway station, which collapsed. Desai’s firm had declared it safe for use despite some corrosion in the structure, they said. “We detained Desai Sunday (March 17, 2019) after ascertaining negligence on his part and arrested him,” deputy commissioner of police (zone I) Abhishek Trimukhe said.

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He said the police had recorded statements of 31 people, including the injured, eyewitnesses and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials, including Sanjay Darade, chief engineer of the bridge department. “During our investigation it has been found that the concerned structural auditor was aware about the condition of the foot overbridge but he neglected the fact,” the DCP said.

Police initially booked officials of the Mumbai civic body, who were responsible for its maintenance, and the Central Railway (CR) under section 304-A (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code, but rescinded the move later. That section was removed and section 304-part II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC was imposed against Desai, police said.

BMC asks Pune firm to carry out audit of 157 Mumbai bridges

Following the collapse of a foot overbridge in Mumbai’s Fort area, the BMC has appointed a Pune-based consultant, to carry out inspection of 157 bridges in the metropolis and submit a structural report within one month

March 18, 2019: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), in a letter on March 16, 2019, directed Pune-based CV Kand Consultants Private Limited to carry out the structural audit of 157 bridges in Mumbai, on a ‘most urgent’ basis. “You are directed to re-inspect all the sites and review the structural report of all 157 bridges within one month’s time and submit the same with detailed investigation and recommendation,” the BMC letter stated.

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The move comes a couple of days after the deck of a foot overbridge connected to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) railway station collapsed on the evening of March 14, 2019, killing six people and injuring 31. In 2016, CV Kand Consultants Private Limited had made an inventory of 157 bridges, road overbridges on railway tracks, foot overbridges, flyovers and vehicular subways in Mumbai’s western suburbs.

The civic body also issued a show-cause notice to DD Desai’s Associated Engineering Consultants and Analysts Private Limited, on inventory of bridges in the city. It asked the firm why it should not be blacklisted and losses be recovered from it. Earlier on March 15, 2019, the BMC, in its preliminary investigation, had found that the structural audit of the FOB which collapsed was flawed and a diligent one could have avoided the tragedy.

6 dead, 31 injured, as foot overbridge collapses in Mumbai

In the second incident of bridge collapse in Mumbai in eight months, six persons were killed, when a section of a foot overbridge connected to the busy Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in south Mumbai, collapsed on March 14, 2019

March 15, 2019: Six persons were killed and 31 injured, after a section of a foot overbridge near a busy train station in south Mumbai collapsed during evening rush hour on March 14, 2019, officials said. The bridge connected the area near the Times of India building with the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus railway station. The injured have been admitted to nearby hospitals, a disaster management cell official said.

Just after the incident, Mumbai Police had tweeted: “Foot overbridge connecting CST platform 1 north end with BT Lane near Times of India building has collapsed. Injured persons are being shifted to hospitals. Traffic affected. Commuters to use alternate routes. Senior officers are on spot.” A case has been registered against officials of the Central Railway and the BMC in connection with the incident, police said. “We have registered an offence under section 304A (causing death by negligence) of the IPC at the Azaad Maidan police station,” said Manjunath Singe, spokesperson of the Mumbai Police.

Civic authorities started dismantling the remaining portion of the overbridge late night, after the collapse. Additional municipal commissioner of the BMC, Vijay Singhal, said the remaining portion of the damaged bridge is being dismantled manually. He said action will be taken against the firm that conducted the structural audit of the bridge. Deven Bharti, joint commissioner (law and order), said that police ‘will, for sure, launch an inquiry into the incident’. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said a high-level committee will probe the circumstances under which the 40-year-old overbridge collapsed.

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An eyewitness said the south Mumbai overbridge was being used by pedestrians, even as repair works were ongoing. Several motorists were also under the bridge when it came down, which led to an increase in the number of injured, an official said. Another eyewitness said most of the victims were walking on the overbridge, on their way to the CST station, when it collapsed. “Thankfully, when the bridge collapsed, it was red signal at the nearby road, otherwise several people would definitely have been crushed under the rubble,” said a taxi driver, who escaped the tragedy.

Lawmakers and local party leaders rushed to the spot as a political blame-game ensued. Arvind Sawant, the local Shiv Sena MP, said, “This bridge was under minor repairs after the audit of all bridges in the city. Action will be initiated against the responsible officials.” Local BJP MLA Raj Purohit also visited the spot and demanded immediate action against the engineer who had declared the bridge as ‘safe’. “He should be arrested right now. He is responsible for the entire disaster.” Local Shiv Sena corporator Sujata Sanap said she had alerted officials about the structure, but they did not act in time. “I have been pursuing the issue of this unsafe bridge for long and also wrote so many letters to officials but they were ignored.” Congress leader Milind Deora said murder charges should be slapped on auditors who inspected the bridge and the BMC officers who appointed them. The collapse will be jointly probed by BMC and Central Railways, said Vinod Tawde, district guardian minister of Mumbai.

The tragedy comes eight months after another bridge collapsed in suburban Andheri, in which five persons were killed. In July 2018, a portion of a road overbridge had collapsed in suburban Andheri. Railway minister Piyush Goyal had then announced a joint safety audit of all 445 bridges in Mumbai. Following the order, the railways, the BMC and IIT-Bombay had conducted a safety audit.