"She came to Mumbai only to get killed," said Amruta Shukla's inconsolable friend, standing outside the emergency ward of KEM hospital and staring at a makeshift partition that separated her from her friend's body. The same partition shielded the body of another colleague, 42-year-old Manoj Shukla. Twenty-eight-year-old Amruta and Manoj were killed when a slab on the second floor of Victoria House in Lower Parel collapsed last morning.
Amruta was unlucky enough to have paid a visit to the building yesterday. According to senior officials from JSW Ispat, Amruta had been working as an assistant manager in the accounts department of the firm for the past five years. Her office was in Dolvi in Raigad district. She was in Mumbai to clear some queries with the accounts and taxation department, in preparation of the company's annual report.
Amruta was on the second floor of the building discussing taxation issues with a colleague when suddenly the section of the floor she was standing on caved in.
A resident of Panvel, Amruta obtained an MBA in finance and joined the company as a trainee five years ago. A colleague who works at the factory in Dolvi said, "It is unfortunate that she was at our corporate office in Mumbai when the accident happened. She would go to the corporate office only when required. It was a regular practice for those working in the accounts department to shuttle between Mumbai and Dolvi on Mondays."
According to JSW officials, the first and second floors of the building housed nearly 200 employees. The first floor accommodated the taxation, accounts and finance office of JSW, while the JSW Foundation and the ISPAT accounts and taxation office occupied the second floor.
Asked if any renovation work was underway in either of the offices, the official replied in the negative, stating, "Renovation was being done on the ground floor, which was earlier occupied by a national daily until a few months ago. There was no renovation work on either floors occupied and owned by JSW."
Jayaraman, VP, Corporate Communication, said, "It is a very unfortunate day for us. We have lost two of our colleagues and this loss is too much. We are yet to ascertain the other damages and the organisation is providing every possible assistance to the injured and next of the kin of the deceased."
Officials also revealed that the server room was completely damaged in the accident. Computers and other vital office files were also destroyed.
Nick of time
Over a 100 staffers were on the first and second floor, most of whom could be evacuated in time. Sources revealed that a few employees had sensed that something was wrong with the structure minutes before the collapse, and alerted their colleagues. Many of the employees had left the building by the time part of it collapsed.
Dead on arrival
Amruta was declared dead by the doctors at KEM hospital soon after being brought into the emergency ward.
Doctors tried to revive Manoj, but he passed away during the course of treatment. Amruta's father Anil, a retired bank officer, received a phone call at their Panvel residence, informing him that Amruta had been injured in an accident and that she was in KEM hospital. He rushed to the hospital, only to find his daughter's body lying on a stretcher in a corner of the emergency ward entrance.
"As per procedure, the body was kept outside the emergency ward for the police to perform a panchnama before the body was finally sent for an autopsy in the evening," said a doctor.
Meanwhile, doctors at the autopsy centre in KEM hospital concluded that Shukla died due to 'blunt trauma'. A forensic surgeon said, "The entire right side of her body was completely crushed, resulting in fracture of spine, ribs and bones of upper and lower limbs. She had ruptured lungs and accumulation of blood was visible in the chest cavity on the right side, leading to her death." The body was handed over to her relatives, who took the body to Panvel for cremation.
Meanwhile, Sub-Inspector S Chauhan of N M Joshi Marg police station said, "We have registered a case of accidental death as per Section 174 of CrPC, but no case has been registered against anybody, as the matter is being probed from all angles."
JSW is yet to make any formal announcement about compensation for the dead or injured.
1897: Year the building was constructed
50: Number of people working on the first floor when the incident occurred
25: Number of people working on the second floor at the time
2005: The year that the building was acquired by JSW Ispat Steel Ltd