Fifteen passengers were killed and at least 42 injured when an overloaded and speeding private bus overturned on a sharp curve and rammed into a tree here on the Jalandhar-Nawanshahr highway around 9am on Friday.
Eleven passengers died on the spot, while four succumbed to injuries in hospitals. Thirteen of the victims were residents of Nawanshahr and other districts of Punjab, while one each hailed from Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The bus (PB08-CP-5695) was owned by Onkar transport company.
Banga deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Sarbjeet Singh said bus driver Jaswinder Singh, a resident of Kalupur village in Hoshiarpur, had been arrested and booked under sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 279 (rash driving) of the India Penal Code (IPC).
Eyewitness Mandeep Singh, a local resident who had come to pay obeisance at a shrine near the accident spot, said the driver lost control of the vehicle while overtaking a tractor trolley at high speed. He said the roof of the bus collapsed after it crashed into the tree. Mandeep and other passersby rushed to the help of injured passengers.
Local resident Gurbax Rai, who suffered head injuries, confirmed that the driver was driving recklessly. Mandeep Kumar, who suffered severe back injury, said he was standing in the overcrowded bus and several passengers fell on him when the mishap occurred.
Within a few minutes of the accident, five ‘108’ ambulances reached the spot and took the injured to nearby Guru Nanak Mission Hospital, Dhahan Kalera, Banga, Phagwara civil hospital and Raja hospital in Nawanshahr.
Officials of the local administration and police reached the spot and started rescue operations. A JCB machine removed the bus from the spot and cleared the road for traffic.
The deceased were identified as retired police inspector Sucha Ram and his wife Sheela Rani (Faridkot district); Mangal Singh, Rajinder Kumar, Santosh Rani, Baljeet Singh, Jagroop Singh, Gurdev Kaur and Mahinder Kaur (all from Nawanshahr district), Ramjan Bibi and her granddaughter Anjum (Hoshiarpur district), Ranvir Singh of Kapurthala, Manjit Singh of Dharamkot (Moga), Raj Kumari (Himachal Pradesh) and Nawab (Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh).
What went wrong
Speeding: The bus driver didn’t slow down despite the sharp curve (speedometer needle stopped at 90 km per hour when the vehicle crashed into a tree).
Overloading: The bus was carrying around 70 passengers against the capacity of 52. More than 15 of them were standing at the time of the accident.
Overtaking: The driver tried to overtake a tractor trolley on a sharp curve