A member of a Chhau dance troupe from West Bengal was killed and over a dozen others were injured when the vehicle which was carrying them fell into Damodar river from a bridge following an accident in Ramgarh district around Wednesday midnight. One person was also reported missing. The injured were admitted to Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi.
The incident occurred on the National Highway No. 33 (a four-lane highway from Ranchi-to-Barhi-via-Hazaribagh). The police have registered an FIR against the driver, who escaped immediately after the accident.
However, the police said that carcass of a cattle lying on the road appeared to be the reason behind the incident. An inquiry in this regard is on.
The police added that the victims were riding on the roof of the vehicle and they were the ones who fell in the river. Those sitting inside the vehicle were safe, as the vehicle itself did not fall into the river.
According to the police, a Chhau dance troupe from Jhalda (West Bengal), with a total strength of around 35 people, were travelling to Kujju area in Ramgarh for participating in a religious ceremony, called Manda Puja, which is observed by tribals. They were barely 30 minutes from their destination when the vehicle met with an accident.
“At least 35 people were travelling in the 407 mini truck. Out of these, 14 were travelling on the roof. As the vehicle reached the bridge on Damodar at Kothar, the driver spotted a carcass of a buffalo. He tried to steer clear of it and hit the railing on the left side. The people who were travelling on the roof fell into the river – over 10 metres deep and having strong currents due to continuous rain – as the vehicle jolted to a stop. One of them, later identified as Ravi Munda (40), fell on the railing sustaining serious head injuries and died on the spot,” said Ramgarh Superintendent of Police M. Tamil Vanan.
The officer added that, initially, the police got the information that while 14 people had fallen into the river and another dozen were missing. However, later it was verified that only 14 people had fallen in the river. “We rescued 13 of them and one is missing. The remaining have been admitted to RIMS,” said the SP. Most of the injured were in their 30s and 40s, the police said.
Vanan said that the police and rescue personnel carried out the search in Damodar river till around 2.30 a.m. in the morning and then renewed their search again for the one missing person.
“A few persons from the group had got down from the vehicle and left the spot, hoping to find some help. But they got lost into the adjacent forest area and returned this morning,” he said.
Initial inquiries revealed that a buffalo had died on the bridge after being hit by a vehicle a couple of days ago. However, the carcass had not been removed. “Those managing the traffic and road conditions on the National Highway had put the traffic cones around the carcass, but not cleared it. The foul smell emanating from it suggested that it was a couple of days old. From initial inquiries, it appears that the driver thought that a live animal was sitting on the road and steered sharply to avoid the same, which led to the accident. We are inquiring into it,” said the SP.
In April this year, a jatra troupe from Bargarh in Odisha had met a gory end when their bus had plunged down a hilly gorge in Deogarh district of Odisha. At least 27 were persons, including the owner of the troupe, were killed and only 11 could survive the mishap.