Ten people from Porbandar in Gujarat, including seven women, were killed and 39 were injured when the private bus they were travelling in went off the Pune-Bangalore highway and fell into a trench. The driver reportedly lost control on a slope that had a sharp turn near the Khambatki tunnel in Satara district on Monday night.
Another major accident at the same spot was averted after four persons in a car, that had halted near the accident site, suffered minor injuries when the car was hit by a truck that also went out of control on the slope just few minutes after the first accident. The truck went on to hit another car and a tempo before turning turtle into a roadside trench.
About three weeks ago, nine persons had lost their lives after a heavy container had crushed a tempo at the same spot.
The bus with 47 pilgrims — most of them conservancy staffers from Porbandar Municipal Corporation — had started from Porbandar on January 10. They were on the way back after visiting Tirupati, Rameswaram and several other pilgrimage sites in South India. They took a halt at Karad in Satara and had resumed their journey at 7 pm on Monday.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Rahul Makanikar said, “About a km after the bus crossed the Khambatki tunnel, the driver reportedly lost control on the second turn of the sharp S-shaped curve, that also has a slope. The bus was going at a very high speed and turned turtle as it fell into the trench.”
The injured were rushed to nearby hospitals initially by some people who stopped by to help and the police, and later by ambulances. Ten of them, including the driver and the cleaner, were declared dead on arrival at hospitals. The injured are being treated at three hospitals in Satara town, Shirwal and Khandala-Pargaon and all are said to be out of danger. The injured also include some children. The injuries of the four persons from the second accident are minor, police said.
Mohan Chudasama, one of the survivors, said, “We could see that the driver was not able to control the bus on the slope and many of us got up from our seats. We thought the brakes had failed. We were very scared and the next thing we know was that the bus was in the trench and many of us were injured.”
Satara Regional Transport Officer Bhalchandra Kulkarni said, “The vehicle be examined and only after that will we be able to comment on whether there was any fault in the vehicle or not.” Rajesh Jethwa, another injured, said, “We were to complete our journey by February 1 but the bus broke down several times. All of us are civic conservancy staffers; some had even borrowed money for this pilgrimage.”
The deceased have been identified as Lalitbhai Waghela (43), Kanjibhai Waghela (50), Waragjangbhai Kangad (50), Jayaben Virani (42), Shantaben Jethwa, Geeta Patnesa (46), Nanuben Jethwa (62), Jamanben Patnesa (60), Diwani Chamandiya and Diwadiben. The bodies were being handed over to the relatives till late on Tuesday at Khandala hospital after post-mortem examination.