Pune: The fearless team of Mahabaleshwar Adventure Trekkers Association (MATA) was felicitated by the Empress Garden Mitra Parivar and were presented Rs 1 lakh as a form of gratitude here recently.
The MATA was involved in the rescue operation in Raigad wherein a bus carrying non-teaching staff members of Dr Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth plunged into an 800-feet gorge. Prataprao Pawar, Chairman and Managing Director at Sakal Papers Pvt Ltd and Vice President of Empress Garden was the chief guest for the function.
On July 28, a bus carrying 30 non-teaching staff members died when the bus carrying them on a study tour skidded and plunged into an 800-feet gorge. Only one person miraculously survived the accident. The accident took place off Ambeni Ghat in Raigad district at around 11.30 am.
The association was the first one to get to know about this accident. Anil Kalgande, President of the association said, “Our members are spread all over Mahabaleshwar and ghat areas and they run their own shops and hotels. One of our members got to know about the mishap as his shop was close to the spot where the bus slipped down the gorge. He contacted me and in less than two hours our team of 43 members reached the spot.”
“From 2005 we have initiated rescue operations and till now we had not seen such a worst accident where all people travelling were dead. We have carried out more than 100 rescue operations till now. From these operations, 103 bodies have been recovered and 22 people have been saved. We have a team of 50 members,” Kalgande said.
According to him, there were no high trees in that gorge which could have halted the bus from going deep down. Everyone had head injuries. The scenario was really disturbing.
“Our team members who went 800 feet down to recover the dead bodies had to rest at the actual spot as the rescue operation continued for a while. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) also reached the spot to help us out. By 6 pm on the same day, 14 bodies were pulled up by our rope which was 2,000 feet long. During this operation, seven members of the team were injured. We had to battle with snakes, monkeys and crabs during this rescue operations,” Kalgande added.
To carry out such activities, they do not get any help from the government. The team does not have any working professionals. While carrying out such operations, they carry ropes, harness, dissenter, pulley, boat (if they have any water rescue operation), the fish detector (which detects body inside the water), anchor and walkie-talkie. They have 50 to 60 ropes of 500 to 1,000 feet long. “We are planning to start women’s training as well at Mahabaleshwar,” he said.
Akshay Javalkar (16) is the youngest member of the group. He said, “I have joined this group a month ago and I live in Harosi village which is 16 km away from Mahabaleshwar. I was a part of one rescue operation at Nodwich point where one body was recovered. I had rappelled halfway down the gorge. I aim to join this team after getting proper training.”
Nilesh Bavlekar, another member of the team, said, “I am an expert on the waterborne rescue operation. I have recovered more than 10 to 15 bodies from almost 150 feet deep water. Most of the cases are of water accidents. We use the fish detector to detect the body and anchor to recover it.”
Patting the efforts of the team Pawar, said, “The team is doing the job without any fear and as responsible citizens of the country. We are ready to help them. This kind of operation is very risky to carry out. And as they said, they are non-professionals and they earn money on a daily basis from which they carry out all these operations and also spend on equipment and vehicles. Helping such people is being really grateful.”