SEVEN STUDENTS were killed and 15 injured after a DAV Public School bus fell into a canal near Amritsar Tuesday. The bus driver, owner and the school management were booked after students and parents alleged that rash driving led to the accident.
According to the police, there was no railing on the narrow bridge from which the bus fell. Also, the bus was packed beyond its capacity: 35 children were travelling on the vehicle that had a capacity of 20. Most of the children were aged between 7 and 15 years, the police said.
The police identified the deceased as Gurmanpreet Kaur (5), Robanpreet Kaur (8), Sehajdeep Kaur (10), Yuvraj Singh (8) of Muhawa village and Sehaj Preet Singh (7) Anshpreet Kaur (5), Jasmin Kaur (10) of Tibbi village. Sehajdeep and Yuvraj were siblings, the police said. A team of divers came from Phillaur near Ludhiana to help in searching for the bodies. All the bodies were recovered, the police said.
The bus had started from the DAV school, Nesta, around 1 pm. The police said some of the students claimed that the driver, Satnam Singh, was a new recruit and had only joined duty on Monday. They told the police that he was driving rashly and lost control over the bus on the narrow bridge. He fled the spot after the accident, the police said.
Amritsar Deputy Commissioner Varun Roojan reached the spot after the accident.
Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) leader and market committee chairman Hardev Singh Lali alleged that he had written many times to the authorities to widen the bridge and repair the railing, but that his requests had gone unheeded.
“We have booked the bus driver, Satnam Singh, based on the statements of some students and their parents. Preliminary investigation indicates he was driving rashly. Also, there was no railing on the bridge. We have also booked bus owner Tarsem Kumar Bawa of Attari. School management has been also booked for the accident,” said Senior Superintendent of Police (Amritsar rural) Harkamal Preet Singh Khakh.
Despite repeated attempts to contact them, no one from the school management was reachable for comment.
According to the students, the bus was stuck on the broken railing for around two minutes. This gave some time for some of the students to help others get out of the bus before it fell into the canal, they said.
The Punjab government has announced a compensation of Rs 11 lakh each to the families of the deceased and also promised free treatment of the injured. The injured students were admitted to hospitals in the area.
Expressing sorrow over the incident, Harman Singh Sidhu, president of NGO ArriveSAFE, alleged that the state government was “adopting a casual attitude towards such incidents.” He cited a report released by Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, according to which narrow bridges led to 81 deaths in Punjab and 155 in Haryana in 2015.