On Sunday, seven members of the Jadeja family were leaving a temple in the Indian town of Morbi when the youngsters requested to go to a nearby suspension bridge, which had recently reopened after renovations.
A low-hanging footbridge from the colonial era that was packed with hundreds of tourists suddenly gave way around 6:20 p.m.
According to a relative and a family friend, the Jadejas were among the at least 134 people murdered in the incident, one of India’s deadliest bridge collapses.
“They were on the bridge when it collapsed,” said Kanaksinh Jadeja, a cousin of the two Jadeja brothers – Pratapsinh and Pradyumansinh – who lost their mother, wives and four children.
The brothers were at work at a hotel they run in the small industrial town at the time but realized something was amiss when they got home around 8 p.m. to find the door locked.
“None of the family members’ phones were reachable,” the cousin said. “They realized something was wrong and then they heard about the bridge collapse.”
Approximately 400 visitors had congregated on the constrained bridge spanning the Machchhu River on Sunday after purchasing tickets to see the 1877-built marvel.
According to local officials, the Oreva firm, which produces clocks and electrical goods, was given a contract this year to operate and maintain the bridge for a period of 15 years.
Sandeepsinh Zala, a municipal official, claimed that Oreva had not notified local officials about reopening the 233 meter (255 yard) bridge and had not been given a fitness certificate to do so.
An Oreva spokesperson did not answer calls and text messages from Reuters. The Indian Express newspaper quoted an Oreva spokesperson as saying: “… the bridge collapsed as too many people in the mid-section of the bridge were trying to sway it from one way to the other.”
The Jadeja siblings first rushed to the site of the disaster but they could not find any of their family, said their cousin.
Dozens of people had clung onto the cables and twisted remains of the structure. Some tried to swim to safety. Many others, including children, drowned.
The brothers then went to Morbi’s government-run civil hospital, about a kilometre from the riverside, where they found their mother’s body around 10 p.m.
The bodies of their wives and the children, aged between five and 10 years, were brought to the hospital later in the night, where they were identified by the bereaved brothers.
All seven were cremated early on Monday.
Narendrasinh Jadeja, a friend of Pratapsinh Jadeja, described the Jadejas as a contented and close-knit family that all lived together in Morbi.
“I cannot express how angry and helpless I am feeling,” said Narendrasinh, a lawyer.
Police have registered a criminal case against unnamed persons responsible for the renovation, maintenance, and management of the bridge. Nine people have been detained.
The government of Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi where Morbi is located, has formed a five-member team to investigate the disaster.