Three students were killed and more than 20 injured when an overloaded and speeding school van fell into a 10-ft-deep drain at Pindi village, about 30 km from Batala town, in Gurdaspur district on Tuesday.
The deceased were identified as Harkirat Singh (10), his cousin Harpreet Singh (11) and Jaspreet Singh (15). They were residents of Wadala Veeram village in Amritsar district and studying in Captain School of Excellence (CSE) at Fatehgarh Churian, near Pindi village. Jaspreet was the grandson of the bus driver, Dalbir Singh.
The school van, bearing the registration number of Daman and Diu, was carrying more than 60 students against the capacity of 32. The driver did not have a valid driving licence.
Around 8am, the van, carrying students from the villages of Wadala Veeram, Bhoja and Wadala, was on its way to the school when it collided head-on with a Gypsy. As the steering wheel got jammed, the van driver lost control of the vehicle and it fell into the drain after breaking the grille of a bridge.
Passersby and residents of nearby villages rushed to the spot and pulled out the students, who were buried under the van.
It took more than one-and-a-half hours for the station house officer (SHO) of Fatehgarh Churian police station, Harpal Singh, to travel just 1 km to reach the spot. Deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Kirpal Singh arrived around 11am.
Talking to mediapersons, Batala senior superintendent of police (SSP) Daljinder Singh said the preliminary investigation had revealed that the van was in a poor condition. He confirmed that the vehicle was overloaded and its driver did not have a driving licence.
“We have registered a case under section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the school owner, Capt Harinder Singh, and driver Dalbir Singh, who is undergoing treatment,” he added.
An eyewitness said the van was overtaking a motorcycle at high speed when it collided with the Gypsy. Then the van crashed into the grille and fell into the drain.