Gandola tragedy: On Eid, Kashmir government flying a family dead to Nagpur

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SRINAGAR: On Monday when people will be celebrating Eid after a month long fasting, officials of the state government would be flying the family of four to Nagpur, their ancestral residence. Jayat Andraskar, his wife Manisha Wandhare Andraskar and their two daughters were among seven persons who were killed when a pine tree was uprooted by speedy winds and forced upon the cable of the Gandola, a cable car project.

Jayant Andraskar and his wife, a picture sourced from their facebook

J&K government has announced a high level probe into the accident and announced a Rs five lakh compensation to each family who lost their members in the unprecedented tragedy in Gulmarg.

The two little daughters of Mrs and Mrs Jayant Andraskar who were also killed with their parents

What Happened?

Though the exact details of the crisis will be known once the investigations will complete, the officials involved in the rescue operations said that high speed winds created a mess in the tourist spot. A pine tree was uprooted by the winds and it hit the cable between Tower No 6 and 7, in the initial phase.

Because of the massive impact of the tree fall, the cable derailed and came out of the pulleys from both ends and flung the cars down. “With the massive pressure and velocity, two cabins hit the ground with massive force thus crashing their doors,” one senior official said. “As the doors opened, the passengers were thrown out and died instantly.” As cables were derailed between the two towers, the cable stopped instantly which created a lot of panic.

The impression that the cables malfunctioned is not a fact, officials pointed out. “Had that been the case all the cabins would have fell down but the fact is that the cables between these two towers derailed but did not cut as a result of which both the cabins after crashing the ground were up again,” the officer said.

Top police and civil administration officials in the control room of Gulmarg Gandola after the accident killed seven persons including four tourists. Photo: Special arrangement

In the two cable cars, there were a total of 11 people. From one cabin, al the six including the family of Jayat Andraskar including his wife and their two daughters were killed. In the second cabin that carried five persons, one died and four survived injured. “They are in hospital but they are out of danger,” the officer said.

At the time of the accident, there were almost 50 people, mostly tourists in different cars in air. They remained in their cabins. “The Gandola people rushed to the two towers and fixed the line again, it took almost two and a half hours and then the Gandola started behaving normally and all the passengers came down,” the officer said. “Had all the persons required rescue, it would taken many days because it was very difficult and time consuming to evacuate every cabin.”

One of the two ill-fated Gandola cabins that killed its passengers. KL Image: Special Arrangement

What was the rescue?

Given the halt in the first phase, there was lot many people who were up in the second phase. They reached safely to the point where the two phases meet. “They required support in coming down so the local tour professionals took every single ATV and horse and got them down,” the officer said. “The local MLA was stationed there and ensured that every visitor is accessed and helped.”

SSP Baramulla with his entire team was on the spot and was part of the entire process. Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Khan and Director Tourism Kashmir Mehmood Ahmad Shah had driven within minutes after the tragedy to supervise the post-accident activities. Officials were specially mentioning the role that the Tangmarg lawmaker Mohammad Abbas Wani playing helping manage the post-crisis situation. “He was stationed there till the last passenger from the Gandola was helped out and sent to the base camp,” one senior officer said. “He used to tell everybody – do not pay any money to anybody, even though nobody in Gulmarg asked any penny to anybody on Monday after the crisis hit the main infrastructure.” The only problem that the officials initially faced was the lack of adequate number of horsemen because of the Eid preparations. This was later managed quickly, however.

The Unfortunate Family

The four member family is basically from Nagpur. They had migrated to Delhi – possibly because of their jobs, two and a half years back and were living there in Shalimar Bagh flats of Delhi government. Officials said they got in touch with their ancestral family in Nagpur and instead of flying them to Delhi they are being sent to Nagpur.

The only Facebook status that Jayant posted on his facebook during his Kashmir visit. It says he was at peace in Pahalgam

“We are flying to Mumbai in Go Air on Monday morning and then we have a connected flight to Nagpur,” the officer said. “We have talked to the family and it was on their request that we have done this.”

The family had flown separately and was not part of any group of tourists. They had spent one or more nights in Srinagar’s Gand Mumtaz Hotel and were slated to have a night stay in Gulmarg. Married in April 2008, they perhaps had come on their first visit to Kashmir. They had a night stay at Hotel Hill Top in Pahalgam as Jayant’s Facebook status suggests. Both of them seemingly were from engineering background as both had gone to teh same polytechnic.  In fact, they had driven directly to have a Gandola ride before checking into Pine Spring, where they were supposed to stay. Their luggage was still in their car. Officials said they have already taken over their belongings and the bodies have also been moved to Srinagar.

At least two officials from the J&K government’s tourism ministry will fly the coffins to Nagpur on Monday.

One of the two ill-fated Gandola cabins that killed its passengers, being examined by the Gandola officials. KL Image: Special Arrangement

Identity of the dead

Police have identified the seven persons who died in the accident as Jayat Andraskar son of  Namdeo Andraskar, Manisha wife of Jayant, and their two daughter – Anaga Jayant, and Anushka Jayant. In Delhi, they resided at Shalimar Bagh, Administrative Flats.

Locals who were killed in the accident are Mukhtar Ahmad (Guide) son of Ali Mohammad resident of Chountpathri  Babareshi, Jahangir Ahmad Khanday (Guide) son of Mohammad Akram resident of Waripora, Tangmarg  and Farooq Ahmad Chopan resident of Waripora, Tangmarg. Two persons identified as Ajaz Ahmad Ganie son of Ghulam Ahmad resident of Kohlina, Chandoosa, and Tariq Ahmad Katariya son of Mohammaddin Katariya resident of Pachhar, Chandoosa Baramulla were injured.

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