BMC officer probing the incident says – ‘prima facie, near impossible’.

Tahe sewers could hold the answers to Sheetal Dama’s disappearance in Ghatkopar and her body washing up 22 km away near Haji Ali.

Dama, 32, a resident of Asalfa village in Ghatkopar, went to a flour mill on the evening of October 3 with her son. Fearing that it would rain soon, she persuaded him to return home. But with no sign of Dama for hours, her family went looking for her and found her bag near an open manhole.

Suspecting that she had fallen in, the police began scouring nearby drains and later extended the search to Tardeo, Mahim, Bandra, Kurla and Saki Naka, where the sewage line led. Nearly 33 hours after she went missing, Dama’s body was found in the sea off Haji Ali.

Although an autopsy attributed the cause of death as drowning, BMC officials aren’t convinced that Dama fell into the manhole and floated towards Haji Ali, because the sewage line just isn’t built that way.

According to Deputy Municipal Commissioner Sanjay Darade, who has been made the inquiry officer for the case, there are at least three chokepoints in the drainage line where the body should have got stuck. Also, if Dama had indeed fallen into the Ghatkopar manhole, her body should have been carried into the Mithi river at Mahim as the sewage line is not connected to the Worli nullah. Some officials also claimed that the manhole wasn’t wide enough to fit an adult. There are no witnesses who saw Dama fall into the manhole either, said Nitin Alaknure, senior inspector in Ghatkopar police, which is conducting an investigation. “We are still recording statements,” he said.

BMC officials say even if Sheetal Dama had fallen into the Ghatkopar manhole (above), she couldn’t have travelled too far (Photos by Raju Shelar)

“Prima facie, it’s near impossible that the body could have covered 22 km through drains,” said Darade, who has to file his investigation report in 15 days. “Detailed statements of police and fire brigade personnel who conducted the search and recovered the body, as well as those of family members are being recorded.”

Pramod Khedkar, who recently retired as the chief engineer of sewerage operations, suspected that Dama’s body could not have travelled beyond 10 ft in the drain. “From what I could gather, she did not fall into a drain that belonged to the sewerage operations department. There is no major storm water drain in that area. People claimed that she fell into a minor nullah, which is just 2.5 ft deep. The body could not have travelled far.”

Manish Valanju, assistant commissioner of L ward, under which Asalfa falls, agreed. “The drain isn’t too deep and the body should have definitely got stuck 50 ft ahead of where Dama is suspected to have fallen. The rainwater doesn’t flow beyond the CST river bridge on the Andheri-Ghatkopar road. We are getting this spot cleared of sewerage to get a better idea,” he said.

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