Horrific experience prompts truck driver to use savings to help 300 accident victims
WBeing in an accident along a road or highway can be a distressing experience for the viewer – fear, shock, worry and anxiety are all part of it. These are the same emotions that Paradip’s Pankaj Kumar Tarai in Odisha was overwhelmed with when he saw an accident in 2005.
A truck driver by profession, Pankaj was driving from Bhutamundai on the Cuttack-Paradip State Highway when he saw a crowd gathered along the road. He stopped to inquire about the incident.
âA truck crashed into a motorcycle, seriously injuring the two passengers. Both were bleeding profusely, one having sustained a head injury while another had cut a leg, âhe recalls.
âLooking at the injuries, everyone thought it was too late. I desperately wanted to help and offered to help, but no one volunteered to support me. A few minutes later, the two succumbed to their injuries, âsays Pankaj (38). The best India.
The incident left him emotionally scarred, he says. It changed his approach to life and he has since dedicated himself to saving the lives of hundreds of highway crash victims.
A guardian angel
Recalling the incident, Pankaj said, âI could have saved the victims of the accident if I could have provided timely medical care. But I couldn’t have helped them alone. I felt helpless and disheartened. After the incident, I decided to help all the accident victims and try to save their lives, âhe says.
Pankaj spared no effort to rush to the scene of the accident and help the victims. âI started contacting people whenever there was an incident. Slowly, as my work began to be recognized, the residents began to reach out to me and escort me to the scene of the accident. I called an ambulance or personally took the victims to the hospital if necessary, âhe says.
He says he understands the importance of the crucial moment after the accident and acts immediately. âI drop everything I have on hand at this time, because it’s important to arrive on time. Every minute lost reduces the chances of saving a person, especially if they are in critical condition, âhe adds.
Pankaj also provides the service free of charge. âI don’t charge anyone I help. First, I call an ambulance from a public or private hospital, which takes about ten minutes to arrive. Sometimes I pay out of pocket or ask friends for help for the treatment. In one case, surgery required 70,000 rupees. The victim had no parents or relatives and could not afford treatment. Therefore, I pooled the money for his medical expenses, âhe notes.
Pankaj remains with the victims until a family member arrives.
He says as he helped more victims his work was recognized by residents in the area and they began to contact him. âMany learned that I was coming for help and that I knew how to handle the emergency with presence of mind. Police, volunteers and locals started asking for my help, âhe said, adding that ultimately it was part of the exercise to call him alongside the emergency services.
âAccidents happen almost every day on the highway, an average of 25 per month. On December 1 itself, there were three accidents in one day, and I witnessed all of them, âhe explains.
Today it covers an approximately 50 km stretch of the highway. âI get calls every time there is a major incident on the highway. The information is coming in earlier through the technology than in previous years when I started the initiative, âhe says.
So far, Pankaj has helped 400 accident victims, 300 of whom have survived, he says.
In one of these incidents, Pankaj saved the life of a certain Kamal Sahu, an employee of the Cuttack government. âThe accident happened in May 2021 on my way to Paradip for official work. My bike crashed into a water tank. I was lying on the road after the accident, and the crowd kept clicking on my photos rather than helping me. It was Pankaj who arrived 15 minutes later and called for medical help, âhe says.
âThe doctor informed me that I had fractured my spinal cord and that prompt treatment helped me recover from the serious injury. I owe him my life, âhe adds.
Pankaj says there is nothing wrong with the road condition on the highway, but the problem is the speed of commuters. âThe road is in great condition and drivers tend to accelerate on the freeway. I have identified some places where accidents often occur and I have reported to the authorities to install reflectors, lights and other safety measures, âhe shares.
Inspired by such a valuable contribution to the social cause, many friends and locals have expressed their interest in helping Pankaj. âA lot of people ask me to let them know when I hear of an accident so they can volunteer to help. However, there is little or no time to educate others and collectively reach out to the place. Therefore, we recently created a WhatsApp group, where around 30 members help and coordinate at different levels, including the authorities to help accident victims, âhe says.
Ranjitdas Mahapatra, one of Pankaj’s volunteers and friend, says: âPankaj is an asset to the community because he never refuses to help a victim. People who survived because of his timely intervention regard him as a god. “
He says that Pankaj’s act is entirely selfless. âHe spends around 25% of his income. Sometimes when silver and gold objects worth several thousand rupees were found in the vehicles of accident victims, Pankaj honestly returned them to the owner or the police, âRanjitdas adds.
“Need more saviors”
Pankaj has stopped driving and moved to another business, but wants to continue helping more victims. âWe are an informal group. Many organizations appreciate my work with rewards, but few offer financial support. I feel the need to create an NGO and seek procedural advice. Treating or caring for so many patients requires an expenditure of at least Rs 50,000 per month. If I can’t afford the treatment, I ask our WhatsApp group members to apply for financial help. Recently a friend from Dubai sent money to treat a patient, âhe says.
He hopes that the creation of an NGO will help raise the necessary funds and immediately benefit the victims. âI could also buy an ambulance to provide immediate assistance rather than calling and waiting for one,â Pankaj said.
Pankaj also works to raise awareness and explain the importance of the golden hour. Time is a critical period after an accident that can prevent death by providing immediate and appropriate medical attention. âMany still refrain from helping the victims, and some have started to realize the need to save precious human lives,â he said.
The Savior says he will continue to do the work until it is needed. âI am happy that many people have come to realize the need by observing my work and supporting accident victims. The initiative will probably continue to inspire many more for the cause even after my death, âhe adds.
Edited by Divya Sethu