M A I N   N E W S

highway horror in ambala
* 11 children die as overloaded school van collides head-on with a truck
* Fog blamed for mishap
Tribune News Service

An injured child at a hospital
An injured child at a hospital.

The mangled remains of the ill-fated school van
The mangled remains of the ill-fated school van.
Photos: Dev Dutt Sharma

Ambala, January 2
The first weekday of the New Year began on a tragic note for several families of Ambala district, as 11 children died when their overcrowded school van (Tata Magic) collided with a truck on the Saha-Shahbad Road (about 20 km from here) this morning. The van driver, Subhash (25), was also killed in the accident.

The mishap occurred around 10 am near Shergarh village when the van, belonging to Arjun Public School, collided head-on with a speeding truck that was travelling towards Shahbad. Eight children, in the age group of 5 to 8 years, died on the spot while three others succumbed to their injuries on way to the hospital.

The mishap apparently occurred as the visibility on the road was low due to dense fog. However, eyewitnesses claimed both the truck and the van, which incidentally was overcrowded with 30 children against a capacity of 10, were travelling at high speeds. The truck driver fled the scene after the accident.

Belongings of the schoolchildren, including school bags and water bottles, lay scattered at the accident site. The van had been badly smashed in the accident. The injured were rushed to nearby hospitals in some private vehicles. Some of the injured were later referred to hospitals at Chandigarh.

Eight students were declared “brought dead” by the doctors at the Civil Hospital, Ambala, while one child succumbed to his injuries at the Shahbad government hospital. Two children breathed their last at the Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32, Chandigarh.

At present, three children are under treatment at the Military Hospital, Ambala Cantt, 11 are undergoing treatment at the GMCH, Sector 32, Chandigarh, while four are admitted to the PGI, Chandigarh.

As the news of the accident spread, irate parents of the children gathered at the Civil Hospital and staged a demonstration. The administration decided to handover bodies of the children to their families without any post-mortem examination. Heartrending scenes were witnessed as the tragedy befallen parents clutched on to the bodies of their little ones.

CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda visited the injured at the Army Hospital. He announced ex gratia to the families of those killed and injured in the accident. Haryana Education Minister Geeta Bhukkal, who was accompanying the Chief Minister, refused to heed to the demand of the parents to declare closure of schools for a couple of days ahead of the winter break starting from next week. She said school timings had been changed from 10 to 3.30 pm from tomorrow.

Hundreds of villagers and relatives of the deceased van driver blocked the Saha-Shahbad road, demanding arrest of the truck driver, who managed to escape from the scene of the accident. School director Vikram was silent on the tragedy. A team of senior civil and police officers of the district visited the accident site.

Family loses 3 children

Babu Ram Saini of Pasiala village was inconsolable as he waited outside the Civil Hospital to receive bodies of his three grandsons who were killed in the accident. His son Parmod and Vinod were also inconsolable. Parmod had lost two sons (Rahul and Rishab) while Vinod had lost his son Lavish in the accident. They were angry that the school authorities did not react to the gravity of the tragedy immediately.

Probe Ordered

The Haryana Government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the circumstances that led to the tragic accident that claimed 12 lives, besides leaving several others injured.





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