Carelessness alleged. Police say operation procedure followed

Accident: A one-storey traditional house in Lango, Paro, caught fire at around 5:30pm on November 18. The fire fighting team and residents nearby managed to control the fire within an hour and half.

However, during the fire, five individuals: four students and a retired civil servant sustained injuries after they were rammed by a fire engine.

Of the five victims, 19-year-old Pratap Subba sustained fractures on both his legs according to Paro police and was immediately referred to the national referral hospital in Thimphu.

The class XII student of Utpal High School underwent two surgeries, one on November 19 and one yesterday. According to the doctors from the national referral hospital, the patient’s skin and soft tissue were badly injured.

The doctor said that because of the numerous torn muscles and nerves he sustained on the ankles and also because of the open wound, there are high chances of infections at a later stage.

Pratap Subba, who had just come out of the operation theatre clearly remembered the incident when speaking to Kuensel. He was returning from his taekwondo lessons when he saw smoke rising near his friend’s house.

“I reached my gear home and was moving towards the house to help. As soon as I reached near the house, all of sudden the fire vehicle came out of nowhere and hit me,” said Pratap. “I couldn’t run anywhere as the vehicle was in full speed. I was trying to climb the small wall nearby, but before I could get up, it hit me on my legs.”

The vehicle’s engine was running without a driver inside according to Pratap Subba and other eyewitnesses at the scene.

According to Paro police, the Nissan-make fire engine suddenly accelerated forward by itself knocking down five onlookers when it was drawing water from a nearby stream.

The in-charge of the fire section of Paro police station was outside the vehicle operating the fire engine when the incident occurred. Police said according to the in-charge, the operation for the fire engine was properly followed and ensured that its gear was placed in 4th, the 4WD gear in neutral, hand break and engine running before getting out of the vehicle to operate the engine from outside.

The in-charge claimed that he had even placed a boulder beneath a tyre to prevent movement.

Pratap’s father Kali Bahadur Subba said that it was the carelessness on the part of the driver to have left the engine running without proper safety measures put in place.

“If there was no driver inside, the vehicle should not have accelerated at that speed it was rampaging people on the way,” he said. “This is a foreign car we’re talking about. Unless there is a person to press the accelerator, the vehicle should not move at that speed.”

Kali Bahadur Subba said that the vehicle was not even parked on a slope  which would have contributed to the high speed.

The in-charge had claimed the vehicle suddenly accelerated forward while he was handling the throttle at the side of the fire engine, used for drawing and pumping out water. The throttle is interconnected with the accelerator of the fire engine.

Police said that the driver managed to catch hold of the steering and divert the vehicle from moving towards the onlookers, which otherwise could have caused more causalities.

However, Kali Bahadur Subba and eyewitnesses said that the fire engine came to a halt only after hitting an electric pole.

“I don’t want to blame anyone here, but all I need is my legs back to normal. Agencies concerned should help us,” said Pratap Subba. He will be missing his board exams that begin next month.

Meanwhile, the other victims were discharged yesterday with minor injuries, according to police.

Younten Tshedup