It’s a menace that went away for a while but reminded the city of just how dangerous it could be, on Monday. A water tanker with a full load was barrelling down the MGR Puram road at around 8 am, when it hit and killed a twelfth grader who was riding to school on her cycle. Though it was a sordid end for Periyanayaki (17), her brother Subbiah (15) who was the riding another cycle, was lucky enough to escape the wheels of the vehicle.
The shock and despair at watching his sister being crushed in front of him is believed to have traumatised the young boy, as revealed by his father Muthuveerappan. The last recorded case of a water tanker causing a fatal accident within the city was in 2010.
According to the Ambattur police, the brother-sister duo have been riding to school on cycles for the past few years. In fact, both of them were hurrying along the road as they were a tad late on Monday. When they reached that particular junction, they were making their way through puddles and slush, owing to the rain on Sunday night, when the lorry came close to them. Given the narrow road and the fact that the girl might have veered into the path of the speeding lorry, the accident killed her almost instantaneously. While the brother remained shell-shocked, residents and bystanders rushed to pull the girl from under the lorry immediately. When they found her dead, the enraged people staged a road roko and blocked traffic to Ayapakkam. “There have been many smaller accidents where children and adults have been injured by speeding water lorries. We even asked the authorities to put a lorry trap to ensure that heavy vehicles do not use this road. Now that a girl is dead, will they stop this?” queried an emotional Bharathi Devi, a housewife and mother of three who sat on the street. As the group sat there with the body, even after the child’s parents arrived, local administration officials reached the spot and promised action.
When the crowd of over 200 remained adamant, police officials urged them to clear the area. In all the chaos, the driver of the lorry escaped from the scene of the accident. Once the crowd found that he was absconding, a few of them erupted with rage and began pelting the lorry with stones. “As soon as the windshield and windows of the lorry were broken, the situation escalated and we feared that a full scale riot would happen,” said a police constable from Ambattur. Fearing that a repeat of the school bus burning in Pallavaram might recur, a riot control squad was called and kept ready. Thankfully, their fears were unwarranted and the crowd dispersed after about two hours.
The accused, truck driver Rajendran, was arrested and remanded in judicial custody by afternoon by the Traffic Investigation Wing (Poonamallee). As far as the residents’ request for barring the entry of trucks and setting up a detour for such vehicles in the locality, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Ambattur, B Nandhakumar said, “Police personnel are patrolling the area and have been deputed to prevent the entry of trucks and other heavy vehicles.”