NAVI MUMBAI: Seventeen people died and 47 others were injured when a luxury bus crashed into two stationary cars on the Mumbai-Pune expressway early on Sunday.
The dead included a three-month-old girl and another aged 2. The expressway, one of India’s busiest roads, has seen an average of 125 fatalities a year between 2009 and 2015, according to figures obtained from Maharashtra’s Highway Safety Patrol under the Right to Information Act.
Sunday’s accident took place near Shivkar village, around 13 km from Panvel city. According to the police, the bus had more than 60 passengers on board and was on its way to Mumbai from Satara.
As it was crossing the village around 4.30am, it first hit a stationary Swift Dzire and then an Innova parked on the service road before it veered off the highway and fell into a 20-foot ditch.
According to some survivors, the bus driver, who was among those killed, had been speeding. Officials at the spot said that he crashed into the two vehicles as he had been driving in the wrong lane.
Driving over the speed limit and cutting lanes are two of the biggest causes of accidents on highways, most of which are owing to human error, according to traffic officers.
The Swift, also travelling towards Mumbai, had suffered a punctured tyre.
Its driver had flagged down the Innova and asked its occupants for help. The driver of the Innova, Asish Patil, parked the vehicle on the service road and got out to help him. That was when the speeding bus rammed into the Swift and the Innova. “To avoid hitting people standing near the car, the bus driver took a sharp left and ended up hitting the Innova as well before the bus veered off the highway. Over 10 people traveling in the bus died on the spot, while two passengers of the Swift and Innova were injured,” said Sunil Bajare, senior police inspector, Panvel city police station.
Ambulances reached the spot in 20 minutes and with the help of fire brigade officials and local villagers, the victims were taken to five hospitals in the city.
“Eight of the 17 victims were women, seven were men and two were minor girls. We have sent their bodies to Panvel rural hospital for post-mortems,” Bajare said.
“The exact reason for the accident has not yet been determined as the bus driver also died. We think he lost control while changing lanes because he was speeding, and thus hit the stationary cars,” said Vishwash Pandhare, deputy commissioner of police (zone II).
Dr KR Salgotra, medical superintendant of MGM hospital in Kamothe, said, “A total of 34 people were brought to our hospital. Of them, a man, a woman and a child were already dead. The condition of three others was critical and we admitted one of them to the intensive care unit (ICU). Another 28 suffered minor injuries and 24 of them are still under observation. While three people sought discharges against medical advice, one woman was shifted to a hospital in Vashi.”
Other victims were taken to Panacea Hospital, Ashtvinayak Hospital, Gandhi Hospital and Prachin hospital in Panvel, where many are still recuperating from their injuries.
Several politicians, including Thane guardian minister Eknath Shinde, visited the hospitals. “Our first priority is to provide the best services to the injured. If need be we will shift them to bigger hospitals. The chief minister has also promised all possible help to the victims and their families,” Shinde said.