Srinagar: A pile of newspapers lie outside the locked door of Jayant Andraskar's Shalimar Bagh home in Delhi. They would've been collected today, only no one is coming back home. On Sunday, 38-year-old Jayant, his wife Manisha and two young children died in Jammu and Kashmir's Gulmarg, when they fell out of a cable car suspended hundreds of feet above the ground at a ski resort.
- 7 people died in Sunday's cable car accident in Gulmarg
- Manager, denying charges, said all standard procedures were followed
- The cable car service draws thousands in the summer
Uprooted by a strong wind, a tree fell on the ropeway of the Gulmarg gondola or cable car and severed the lines. As the car in which the young Delhi couple and their daughters aged six and four were traveling swung precariously, its glass walls were shattered and they fell to the ground. Three Kashmir residents, including a guide the family had engaged, also died.
The manager of the cable car service has described the accident as an "act of God," denying allegations by former chief minister Omar Abdullah that standard operating procedures or SOP were ignored by operating it in strong wind.
"We don't operate the gondola during high velocity winds and there is an inbuilt safety mechanism in the system that automatically stops the operation whenever there are gusty winds," said the manager Riyaz Ahmad.
He said that there was bright sunshine when the cable cars were in motion, but "suddenly a gush of strong wind uprooted a pine tree that hit another large pine tree, whose branch fell on the cable derailing it from the pulley."
Mr Ahmad also denied reports that the cable car crashed to the ground.
"What caused the deaths of our guests was the shattering of glass. After the glass shattered, the occupants were thrown out of the cabin because of the way the car was dangerously swinging," Mr Ahmad said.
The gondola lift at Gulmarg claims to be the world's highest, ferrying passengers to a height of 4,100 metres for panoramic views of the snow-clad Himalayas. It draws thousands of people in the summer and can ferry 600 people in one hour.
There were about 150 people in other cable cars at the time of the accident. Sunday's accident is said to be the first of the kind since the Gulmarg cable car service started operating in 1998. It was built by the French firm Pomalgalski.
The police have registered a first information report.
The Andraskars had used a long weekend for a quick vacation, planned at the last minute, said neighbours close to them. They had left Delhi on Thursday, June 22. Hours before their cable ride, Mr Andraskar had checked in on Facebook at Pahalgam's Hotel Hilltop on Sunday morning. "Feeling peaceful with Manisha Andraskar," he posted. Condolence messages are pouring in response to the post.
Neighbours and friends say they cannot believe the family of four will not return. Their bodies are being taken to Nagpur, their home town, where last rites will be held. Jayant Andraskar had moved to the national capital from Nagpur to work with a city government department.
In Delhi, neighbours will organise a prayer meeting on Monday evening.