Latur (Maharashtra), May 26:
When a chopper carrying Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and five others came crashing down here on Thursday afternoon, the first person to rush to the rescue was small-time scrap dealer Irfan Shaikh, who shouted “Our king (CM) is trapped in the chopper”.
Seeing the chopper hurtle down, Shaikh ran the 100 metre distance to reach the copter in order to rescue those inside. But many others nearby bolted in the opposite direction, fearing the chopper might explode.
The chopper fell from a height of nearly 80 feet in a thick cloud of dust, accompanied by some flashes of light and a loud booming sound.
Unmindful of the risks, the 28-year-old Shaikh sprinted towards the craft.
“The copter door was jammed and could not be opened… I pulled it but it didn’t budge… The Chief Minister then responded by pushing it from inside… Then I managed to force it open from outside… I offered my hand to the CM and helped him step down,” Shaikh told a local media-person, Govind Ingle of Lokmat Group.
A shaken Fadnavis told Shaikh that he was “fit and ok”, and asked him to help the pilots and others on board.
Officials of the Chief Minister’s Office in Mumbai confirmed the developments on Friday, but declined to say whether Fadnavis would felicitate or honour the scrap dealer for rushing to assist them, as the chopper could have exploded.
Later, Fadnavis told people that it was the “blessings of the 12-crore people of Maharashtra and Jai Bhavani” which helped him and the others survive the crash.
As Shaikh helped the other occupants out, police jeeps, private vehicles and security personnel along with ambulances sped to the crash site and joined the rescue operations.
Fadnavis subsequently left in an ambulance for the home of Latur Guardian Minister Sambhajirao Patil-Nilangekar before returning to Mumbai later in the day.
Speaking to IANS on Friday, Shaikh said when Chief Minister Fadnavis took off in the copter, he like many others, dropped everything to view the take-off and try and catch a glimpse of “the king (CM)”.
“When it crashed down, my only thought was how to help those trapped inside to come out safely,” Shaikh said.
Later, he followed the Chief Minster’s convoy to the minister’s house but the security officials refused to allow him inside, so he quietly returned to his shop for work as usual.
Celebrating Fadnavis’ miraculous escape, Mumbai’s Dabbawalas on Friday acknowledged and congratulated Shaikh for rushing to help the Chief Minister without caring for his own life. (IANS)