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President Pranab Mukherjee's convoy vehicle met accident in Darjeeling, security personnel injured

President Pranab Mukherjee's convoy vehicle met accident near Gorabari Sonada in Darjeeling
President Pranab Mukherjee and chief minister Mamata Banerjee had a near mishap today after one of the vehicles in their convoy plunged into a gorge in Gorabari near Sonada, about 22km from Darjeeling. The President, the chief minister and West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi were on their way to Bagdogra airport after a three-day stay in Darjeeling.

According to the district administration, the first escort vehicle (a Scorpio SUV) of the President’s convoy went out of control and plummeted nearly 150 feet down a gorge near the Mariam Grotto after breaking through the parapet. Five security personnel in the vehicle received injuries in various parts of their bodies. They were taken to the Kurseong sub-divisional hospital for first aid and then referred to the Siliguri sadar hospital.
“The first escort vehicle of the President’s convoy with five people met with an accident near Sonada this morning. The injured are presently admitted in a Siliguri hospital after being administered first aid in Kurseong hospital,” said Anurag Srivastava, the Darjeeling DM.
The five have been identified as Deep Shankar Rudra, SS CID; A.P. Singh, CSLO; SI Pijus of SSU; SI S.K. Biswas; and Gautam Sen, the driver. The CSLO is being taken to Delhi by the President’s team for further tests while the remaining four will be treated in Siliguri.
The President’s convoy of 20-25 cars had left Raj Bhawan at 10.30am amid thick fog and rain.
At the head of the convoy was the advance vehicle followed by a pilot and jammer car. Following the President’s vehicle were two escort cars and the one at the front met with the accident.
The chief minister was behind the second escort car and her vehicle was being trailed by the remainder of the convoy carrying ministers of state, central government officials and journalists from Delhi and Kolkata.
Dipesh Subba, a civic policeman who was on duty near the accident spot, said, “I was on duty here since eight in the morning. I was posted near a bend and could not see the accident but I heard a loud noise just 30 feet ahead. By that time the President’s car had already passed. I ran to where the sound had come from to find a Scorpio down in the gorge and the chief minister giving directions on a microphone,” he said.
It was Subba who first reached the victims with four policemen trailing him. “I told the police personnel to follow me and reached the spot first. I found five dazed and injured people sitting beside the vehicle which was hanging precariously on a small tree,” he said.
The chief minister personally oversaw the rescue operation conducted by the state and civic police including locals. And appreciating the effort made, she announced rewards for the rescue team. “Everyone has helped and with promptness. Thanks to my rescue team. I promise you the state government will reward you for your effort,” she said.
The President too did not continue the drive downhill until the rescue operation was completed. He stayed at the Kurseong tourist lodge and called the chief minister twice for updates. Banerjee did not go the Kurseong sub-divisional hospital but sent her chief security officer and Darjeeling police officials to enquire how the injured were faring. She started for Bagdogra airport only after being informed the five were out of danger. (EOIC)

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