In the third major road accident in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district in less than a month, 17 passengers were killed and 16 others injured on Friday when a mini-bus skidded off the road and plunged into a gorge near Chenab river bed.
The vehicle, a Matador, was overloaded and was carrying more than 30 passengers from Keshwan to Kishtwar town when the accident happened, sources said. When it reached Thakrai, nearly 18 km from Kishtwar, driver reportedly lost control over the vehicle and it rolled down into the Chenab.
Most of the victims had died on the spot, the police said, adding there were at least three women among the victims.
According to the police, driver, Ashraf Hussain, who was also killed in the accident, had been challaned by the traffic police department for overloading just a day earlier.
Kishtwar Deputy Commissioner Angrez Singh Rana along with SSP Rajinder Gupta rushed to the accident site to supervise rescue operations. The Indian Army and Air Force have also swung into action to rescue victims.
Defence Ministry spokesperson, Lt Colonel Devender Anand, said the IAF has pressed a MI-V5 chopper into service and airlifted eight critically injured people from Kishtwar to Jammu. Three others were evacuated by a Pawan Hans chopper.
Governor Satya Pal Malik has announced Rs 5 lakh as ex-gratia to the next of kin of each dead and Rs 50,000 to each injured.