Twenty people were killed when a mini-truck fell into a gorge on the Hoshiarpur-Chintpurni road late on Wednesday night. The accident occurred around 11pm when a mini-truck crammed with pilgrims plunged into a gorge near Nari village, about 30 km from Hoshiarpur.
Some of the 41 injured were discharged after first-aid while six were referred to higher medical institutes. Among the dead were 13 women and four children. Most of the victims belonged to Bajaja and Fatehpur villages near Bhogpur and were relatives.
State health minister Surjit Kumar Jyani visited the Hoshiarpur civil hospital on Thursday morning and announced ex-gratia of `1 lakh each to the kin of the victim on behalf of the chief minister and `25,000 each to the injured. He also announced that `5,000 would be disbursed right away to help families cremate the dead.
The driver of the truck, Tarsem Singh, a resident of Ladoya village in Bhogpur, escaped unhurt by jumping out of the vehicle before it plunged into the gorge. DSP (city) Digvijay Kapil said the driver was trying to flee the spot but was arrested and booked for rash driving and endangering people's lives. "The driver said the brakes had failed due to which he lost control over the vehicle," said the DSP.
Deputy commissioner Tanu Kashyap and senior superintendent of police Sukhchain Singh Gill also reached the site and oversaw the rescue operation. Gill revealed that eight patients were shifted to a hospital at Gagret in the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh and two of them died, while the rest were taken to Hoshiarpur.
"The police reached the spot within minutes of receipt of information about the accident and remained on the job till early morning, till all bodies were retrieved," he claimed.
One of the survivors, Paramjit Kaur, said after hiring a vehicle, they started from Bhogpur around 11am on Wednesday to pay obeisance at the Chintpurni temple and started the return journey at around 9 pm. "We were all awake and chatting when the vehicle suddenly veered off the road and fell into a gorge. We cried for help at which some truck drivers stopped. Later, the police also reached the site and rescued us," she revealed. Paramjit Kaur said a number of her family members were travelling in the truck but she was not aware of their fate.
Civil surgeon Dr Surjit Singh claimed that ambulances and medical teams were immediately sent to the accident site. "Twelve bodies were brought to the hospital on Wednesday night and eight on Thursday morning. A team of doctors is carrying out post-mortem and we will hand over the bodies to the kin as quickly as possible," he said. He revealed that all the survivors admitted to the hospital were out of danger.
Sukho, Piar Kaur, Manisha, Harbhajan Kaur, Kuldip Singh, Nejo, Lovejeet Singh, Maani and Prabhjot Kaur (all residents of Fatehpur); Sukhdev Ram, Sarwan Kumar, Jeeto, Kaajal and Pritam Kaur (all residents of Bajaja); Jamuna and Deesho, (residents of Bassi Akhara, Kartarpur); Shinder and Manpreet Kaur (residents of Bassi Buban) and Santosh of Dhilwan.