Forty-five passengers were killed on Wednesday when a private bus fell into the Tons river, a tributary of the Yamuna, near Chopal, 95 km from Shimla.
The bus — bearing Uttarakhand registration number and carrying 47 passengers — was on its way from Vikasnagar to Tiuni in Dehradun district. The route passes through Himachal Pradesh. Among the dead 31 are male, 10 women and four girls.
As per sources, two people, including the conductor of the bus, jumped out seconds before the bus plunged into the river. The accident spot, 12 km from the Uttarakhand border, is near Gumma in Nerva tehsil, some 190 km from the state capital. It is one of the remotest places in the state.
“The terrain where the accident occurred is very tough. Without a probe, it’s difficult to say whether the accident happened due to human error or mechanical failure,” said Shimla deputy commissioner Rohan Chand Thakur .
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of each of those killed.
Naresh Chauhan, the only surviving passenger, claimed that one of the leaf springs of the bus snapped just prior to the accident.
“The driver and the conductor got down from the bus when the leaf spring broke down. After inspecting the leaf spring, they continued with the journey,” he told police.
He said that at one point when the driver applied the brakes on a turn, the bus tilted. “Sensing that the bus was about to overturn, I jumped out,” he added.
Shimla SP DW Negi said all bodies, which were badly mutilated, have been recovered and process was on to identify them.
Eyewitnesses said the administration had a tough time in extracting the bodies of the victims from the mangled remains of the bus, though villagers began the rescue operation even before the authorities could reach the accident spot.
“We heard a loud thud and saw the bus rolling down into the river,” said a local Santosh Kumar.
It took hours for rescuers and police to climb down the mountain and bring up the bodies.