Nineteen people, including five women, were killed and 25 injured when a speeding container truck rammed into a Kerala Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus near Coimbatore early on Thursday morning. All the victims were from Kerala and were in the KSRTC bus travelling to Ernakulam from Bengaluru.
According to police, there were 48 passengers in the bus. Preliminary inquiries indicate that the driver of the container truck, which was carrying floor tiles from Kerala, slept at the wheel and this led to the accident, officials said.
“The truck hit the road median, entered the opposite lane and rammed into the bus. We also suspect there was a tyre burst in the truck because of which it crossed the median. Truck driver Hemaraj has been detained,” said a senior police officer.
At least seven rows of passenger seats on the right side of the bus, including the driver’s seat, were completely damaged in the accident. Most seats on the left side were intact, except those in the front portion of the bus.
Karishma K, who was travelling in the bus and escaped without injuries, told The Indian Express that the accident took place around 3.15 am on Thursday. “I was sitting right behind the conductor’s seat near the exit door. It was the second row on the left side. The conductor died in the accident. When I opened my eyes, I had a totally open view on my right side as that side of the bus and a part of its roof were gone,” she said.
Karishma said she managed to come out of the bus through the baggage chamber which was broken open by rescue teams. “Some passengers managed to jump through the broken windows and some where seen trying to break the window panes,” she said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit and Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami condoled the deaths.
The authorities managed to identify 12 bodies on Thursday morning, but with relatives of the victims reaching the spot, all the victims were identified by the evening.
A senior Tirupur district official, who was coordinating rescue operations, said the Kerala government had sent 20 ambulances to Tirupur to receive the bodies. “One person is still critical,” the official said.
Kerala Transport Minister A K Saseendran and Agriculture Minister V S Sunil Kumar, too, reached Tirupur to support the families of the victims and those injured.
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