DEHRADUN / SHIMLA: In perhaps one of the worst road accidents in the recent past, 45 passengers, including at least 16 people from Uttarakhand, were killed on Wednesday when a private bus travelling from Vikasnagar to Tyuni fell into Tons river near Nerwa town in Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh. The victims include 28 men, 10 women and seven children.
In a miraculous save, the conductor and a passenger managed to jump off the bus seconds before it skidded off the mountain road near Gumma village, 12 km from the Uttarakhand border and 190 km from Dehradun.
To reach Tyuni, the bus (UK-16PA-0045) carrying at least 47 passengers left Vikasnagar at 5am and had taken a 121-km-long route that passes via Himachal Pradesh. The driver lost control near Gumma at around 11 am and the vehicle skidded off the road, plunging 250 metres into the river.
Uttarakhand’s additional director general of police (law and order) Ram Singh Meena confirmed the death toll. “The bus was carrying 47 passengers and 45 bodies have been recovered,” he told TOI. The conductor, identified as Tulsi Ram, a resident of Uttarakhand, has been held for questioning by police in Himachal Pradesh. The other survivor has been identified as Naresh, a resident of Gumma village.
After local residents informed police about the tragic accident, two teams from the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) of Uttarakhand and a medical team reached the spot to join the neighbouring state in relief and rescue operation.
SDRF commandant Jagat Ram Joshi, who reached the site from Dehradun in a helicopter, said that over 25 bodies have been identified. “At least 16 of them are from Uttarakhand,” he said. Superintendent of police, Shimla, D W Negi said that 10 victims have been identified as residents of Himachal Pradesh.
The unidentified bodies have been kept at the government hospital in Nerwa. Meena said that it took hours for rescuers and police to bring up the bodies from the river due to the steep terrain. He added that the exact cause of the accident was not known but survivors have said there may have been a technical glitch with the steering wheel of the vehicle.
“The conductor has told police that there was a technical issue with the steering wheel. Ten km before the accident spot, the driver had stopped to examine the steering,” Meena said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh for the kin of each deceased and Rs 50,000 for those critically injured. Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, who visited the accident site, also declared a compensation of Rs 1 lakh for families of the dead and Rs 50,000 for those injured. The Uttarakhand CM also directed secretary of disaster management department, Amit Negi, to be in touch with authorities in Himachal Pradesh.
Himachal Pradesh governor Acharya Devvrat and chief minister Virbhadra Singh expressed grief over the death of the victims.
A Himachal police survey on road accidents from 2006 to 12 had found 314 ‘black spots’ in the state, where 4,488 accidents took place in six years that resulted in the death of 1,048 people and injuries to 6,844. There was a plan to put up barricades on the sides of sharp road bends, but it is yet to be executed.