Facts about mountain biker Ajay Padval’s accident

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Tuhin Satarkar

In light of Ajay’s accident we’ve noticed quite a few stories making the rounds on social media, most of which are untrue. In the interest of stopping any more rumours, here’s how the incident took place.

Ajay, Abha and I were on a road trip, and had stopped for a few days in Leh on our way to Manali from Zanskar. Ajay was super keen on cycling down from Khardung-La, as anyone who knew him wouldn’t be surprised to know. On Tuesday morning, he was driven up along with 6 other cyclists and was all set to bike down.

While on his way down he went ahead of the group and he suffered a fall. The exact details of this are unknown, since no-one actually saw him crash, but looking at the condition of his cycle, we think a burst tyre led to a crash, during which he fell off and hit his head against the ground or a sharp piece of rock. He was wearing a helmet which is cracked and probably helped him survive as long as he did.

A few passers by stopped and rushed him to the civil district hospital in Leh, who then called us up, informing us about the accident. Abha and I were waiting in the city making preparations for the rest of trip and waiting for Ajay to get back, since he said he would reach by 3 o’clock. We had no idea of the extent of his injuries until we made our way to the hospital, around 3:30 pm.

When he arrived at the hospital, Ajay was already unconscious, having suffered a severe head injury, and had been put on respiratory support to help stabilise him. Although critical, we were hopeful of his recovery since his vitals were normal.

Over the next 20 odd hours, we put together all the resources we could manage to and contacted over 50 different people from the defence forces as well as the civil administration. All of them were trying their best to help us find a way out as best as they could. We tried to arrange for a private air ambulance, but they refused to fly in to Leh immediately and could only commit to arriving Thursday morning.

With the help of Defence Personnel, the Armed Forces Medical Team and the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, we managed to arrange for an airlift with the help of the Indian Air Force for Wednesday morning. Unfortunately, through the night, Ajay’s condition had begun to deteriorate and he was kept on ventilator support. In this critical of a condition, the doctors advised against shifting him anywhere, whether by road or air.

Around 12 noon on Wednesday, Ajay succumbed to his injuries in the SNM Hospital in Leh. Sandeep Mandan, a fellow cyclist, Abha and I were with him at the hospital throughout the time he was admitted there.

We read a few posts talking about how he would’ve made it had he been airlifted on time, but the reality is it was risky to fly him anywhere with the brain injuries he was suffering from. After having almost 15 doctors, both civilian and from the armed forces, take a look at him and his condition, all were of the opinion that with the grave extent of his injuries, the chances of a recovery were very slim.

The Armed Forces in Leh and everywhere else around the country were incredibly helpful throughout the entire process and went out of their way to make special provisions for us, something we are incredibly grateful for. We were in touch with people posted all over India and not one of them denied us any help or stopped short of doing everything in their power to try and make sure Ajay pulled through. The entire ordeal would’ve been much worse had we not had their constant support, even in the middle of the night.

We lost one of our closest friends yesterday, and no amount of wishful thinking can bring him back. There is no filling the void he has left behind. Ajay will always hold a special place in the hearts of everyone that knew him and the only thing giving us, and his family, some peace is the fact that he died doing what he loved.

We request anyone reading this to help us stop false rumours about Ajay’s accident from spreading, especially through social media. His family is obviously devastated and would be grateful for their space at the moment.