19 Gujarati tourists killed
Dharamsala, June 21
Almost all passengers were either BSNL employees or their family members from Vadodara in Gujarat. They had chartered the bus from Delhi and were on their way to Manali when the mishap took place.
The driver of the bus apparently failed to negotiate a sharp turn on the highway and lost control. The bus rolled down into the steep Charankhud. Many passengers died of critical injuries after they hit boulders head-on.
They were rushed to Dr Rajendra Prasad Zonal Hospital in Dharamsala and the condition of those injured is reported to be stable. Both driver and conductor of the bus have survived.
The BSNL employees were on an LTC tour and were heading for Manali.
Of the total 39 passengers 10 men and nine women are among those declared dead while 13 men and seven women sustained injuries. The only child among the passengers has survived.
Mr N.B. Barot, one of the injured, said he heard a shattering noise before the bus started floating in the air before it rolled down into the deep gorge and hit the rock. “Before I could realise what had happened, most of us lay writhing in pain and others simply motionless. Remains of the bus were scattered all over the place,” he said.
There was no indication on the road about the sharp curve and since the driver was not a local, he might not have anticipated such a sudden turn going downhill at a reasonable speed, he said.
Local MLA Chandresh Kumari visited the hospital and spoke to the injured about their condition.
Meanwhile, the cremation of those killed is a major concern for the district administration. Since most of the family members will be able to reach here by this evening, preservation of the bodies till then would have to be ensured.
Deputy Commissioner Bharat Khera said the administration was waiting to hear from the BSNL authorities as to whether all cremations would be done here. Otherwise, considering the distance, transportation of the bodies would be a big problem.
“Since the identification process is still on till this afternoon, we can only tell those making inquiries from Vadodara that they should rush here immediately,” said Mr Khera.
SDM Rakesh Kumar said even informing relatives of the passengers was an onerous task and the hospital staff and local officials helped in sending across messages. “Desperate family members of the passengers have been calling me to get updates on their condition,” he said.
Mr Khera said the names of all those killed in the accident had been established but some bodies were yet to be identified as either their entire families had died or they were travelling alone. The post-mortem on the bodies was conducted today.
Local residents helped in taking out some of the injured from the debris. “I was sleeping on my terrace when I saw the bus falling down. On rushing there, we found that eight persons had already died. We helped the passengers and took them out of the khud,” said a local youth.
Those killed in the accident include: Ms Jasodaben B. Patel, Mr Deepak Kumar Lalchand Shah, Mr Jagdishbhai Vitthalbhai Doshi, Mr Bhikhabhai Becharbhai Chauhan, Ms Narmadaben B.Chauhan, Mr Jayantilal Kantilal Darji, Mrs Dhanuben J.Darji, Mr Virendra Harikrishna Pandya, Mr Pravinchandra Jayram Gohil, Mr Dhirubhai Govindbhai Patel, Ms Ranjanben D.Patel, Dr (Ms) Daxaben R.Parghi, Ms Revtiben S.Barve, Ms Ilaben B.Tailor, Ms Manguben A.Oza, Mr Jevabhai Shivdas Patel, Ms Shantaben J.Patel, Mr Maneklal Narainbhai Patel and Mr Tulsi.
Meanwhile, the Himachal Pradesh Government has ordered an inquiry into the accident. State Transport Minister G.S. Bali said today.
“An inquiry has been ordered into the reasons of the accident,” he told reporters here.
Mr Bali also announced a relief of Rs 1 lakh each to the relatives of those killed and free and proper treatment to the injured.
State Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has expressed grief over the accident and conveyed his condolences to the bereaved families.
Governor V.S. Kokje has also expressed grief over the accident.
Two IAF choppers have been pressed into service with the help of the Central Government to take the bodies of those killed in the accident to Vadodara. From Dharamsala, the choppers would fly first to Pathankot and then to Vadodara tomorrow morning. The decision was reportedly taken after some of the injured said they wanted their spouses killed in the accident to be cremated in their hometown.
The district administration has also declared that kin of the passengers would be provided aid as per the relief manual.
A special control room has been set up in collaboration with the BSNL and inquiries about the accident can be made at the following three numbers (01892) 222975, 229700 and 222133.