'Fire spread in minutes, caused mini explosions:' Eyewitnesses recount Aero India 2019 fire

19-year-old college student Abhishek Gowda says he was one of the few people who first saw the plumes of smoke near the parking lot.
'Fire spread in minutes, caused mini explosions:' Eyewitnesses recount Aero India 2019 fire
'Fire spread in minutes, caused mini explosions:' Eyewitnesses recount Aero India 2019 fire
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It was around 1pm on Saturday. The afternoon sun was scorching and Abhishek S Gowda, a 19-year-old college student, was volunteering for Aero India and saw plumes of smoke near the parking lot.

Abhishek says he was a part of the Bookmyshow team, who had set up their tent in parking lot number 5 at the Yelahanka Air Force Station. When Abhishek informed his superiors that there could be a fire, they initially thought it was probably just grass burning.

"My friend Ashwin and I ran to the spot where the fire broke out. We saw that the car parked at the end of the parking lot on the first row was on fire. Then there was an explosion and the fire just spread within seconds," Abhishek told TNM.

Overcoming panic and fear, Abhishek realised that there were several drivers, who were asleep in cars nearby. He says he and his friend began banging and knocking on their car windows and alerting them to get out immediately.

"There were some 10 to 15 drivers who were asleep inside the cars. The fire was spreading quickly and they had to get out. I was in Boy Scouts, what was the use of my training if I didn't help? So my friend and I went and got them out and moved them away from the line of fire so that they would not be gutted," Abhishek added.

The fire fighting squad then reached the spot and asked the men to move away as the smoke could be suffocating.

"The car tyres are blowing up. What are you doing here? Go away. Do you have a car? Take it and go," a firefighter, identified as Rakesh, began yelling at people who began gathering around the area of the fire.

“After the firefighters arrived, my friend and I got back to work. I am just happy that no one was injured," Abhishek said.

The firefighters arrived at the parking lot within minutes of the smoke being detected and in 20 minutes the flames were doused. According to the Fire Department, around 300 cars have been gutted in the fire.

“There were cars blasting one after the another, I could hear crackling sounds. The cars were closely parked so the fire spread within seconds... there were glass shards everywhere, tyres were blasting. I was scared so I ran out and I saw one fire engine come inside,” another eyewitness, Rahil told TNM.

He added that the fire had broken out at the far end of the parking lot and the firefighters began their operations immediately and the fire could be controlled to just that area.

Speaking to TNM, Rakesh, who was deployed for duty at Aero India, said that the fire engine which he was in was the first to arrive at the spot. Rakesh sustained deep wounds on his left arm after shards of glass scraped against his arm when the blasts occurred at the parking lot. Rakesh was being administered aid when he spoke to TNM.  

"These are not major injuries. I am okay. I am with the Channapattana Fire Station and was deployed for Aero India duty. I am just getting my wound dressed so I can get back to work. We cannot say what the cause of the fire is yet. Although there is a suspicion that it could be a cigarette butt, we can only be sure once the investigation is complete. It could also have been some issue with the car itself," Rakesh added.

Minutes after obtaining treatment, firefighter Rakesh was seen running towards the fire engine and was back to work.

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