As many as 17 people were killed and 16 feared dead after a bus fell into a gorge at Ambenali Ghat near Poladpur town in Raigad district on Saturday. Only one of the 34 employees of an agriculture university at Dapoli in Ratnagiri district, who were travelling in the bus, survived as he jumped while the vehicle was sliding along the steep slope of the gorge. The passengers, all employees of Dr Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Agriculture University, were on their way to Mahabaleshwar hill station in Satara district for a two-day trip.
The incident came to light after the survivor, Prakash Desai — assistant office superintendent with the university — managed to jump out of the bus, climbed up the slope and called the police and another university employee from the cellphone of a passerby.
Asked about the reason for the accident, Raigad District Collector Dr Vijay Suryavanshi said the driver’s attention may have been diverted when someone in the bus cracked a joke. “A detailed probe is being conducted. But according to information received from the survivor, the driver’s attention got diverted when a joke was cracked in the bus… and he lost control of the vehicle.”
Assistant Inspector Kundan Gawade, PRO with Raigad police, said: “Till 11.30 pm, 17 bodies were taken out. The possibility of anyone being alive among the rest is very less, considering the nature of injuries.”
Deputy Commandant Vairav Nathan, who is heading the NDRF team, said: “We reached the spot around 7 pm. Flood lights have been installed and the search operation will continue into the night. We will have to cut the body of the bus to take out some passengers… some are also trapped under boulders. There is very little chance of any survivors now.”
Desai told the local authorities that the driver lost control of the bus as one of the tyres skidded on a muddy patch on the Ambenali Ghat road. The bus fell 400 feet in the 800-feet deep gorge. “When the bus was falling, I managed to jump out and held on to a tree. When I realised that the bus had fallen down very far, I climbed up holding on to rocks and small trees. When I came up, I took the cellphone of a man and called a colleague and then the police,” Desai was heard saying on news channels.
After the police were informed, local administration and teams from nearby police stations swung into action. Members of local trekkers’ groups in Mahad and Mahabaleshwar and a medical aid team from the government were also called in.
Nawal Bajaj, Inspector General (Konkan Range), said: “The first priority is to complete the search operation. There will be an assessment of the accident spot… probe will be conducted to find out if someone was responsible for the accident and if corrective measures need to be taken to avoid such incidents.”
MoS for Agriculture Sadabhau Khot, who visited the accident spot, announced compensation of Rs 4 lakh to the families of the deceased. President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis took to Twitter to offer condolences to the families.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi also offered their condolences to the bereaved families of those who lost their lives.
Pained by the loss of lives due to a bus accident in Maharashtra’s Raigad district. My condolences to those who lost their loved ones: PM @narendramodi
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) July 28, 2018
I’m sorry to hear about the terrible bus accident in Raigad, Maharashtra in which a large number of people have been killed and many others injured. I appeal to Congress party workers in the area to provide all possible assistance to the injured & families of those who have died.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) July 28, 2018
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.