Thirteen children in the age group of 4-10 years were killed when the private van in which they were travelling collided head-on with a truck on the Jalandhar-Nakodar road here on Monday morning. Van driver Vishal (23) also died on the spot, located about 25 km from Jalandhar city.
The mishap occurred around 7:45am, when the van (Tempo Traveller) carrying 24 children, mostly from the villages of Muddha and Talwandi Bharo in Jalandhar district, was heading towards their primary school, Akal Academy, at Boparai Kalan village. The driver lost control of the vehicle on a curve on National Highway-71 and hit a truck, superintendent of police (SP) Rajinder Singh told Hindustan Times.
The van's roof blew away, the SP said, adding that passersby rushed to the spot and managed to rescue 10 children, who were taken to nearby hospitals.
The van had been reportedly hired by the children's parents as the school claims to have no transport service for students.
When the HT team reached the spot, the police had already arrived. Blood-spattered school bags, shoes and tiffin boxes were found strewn.
"The 14 bodies were handed over to the families without conducting a post-mortem examination," the SP said, adding that 10 injured kids were referred to Kamal Hospital, Nakodar, and the Civil Hospital, Jalandhar, where the condition of some is critical. Boparai Kalan resident Gurdeep (19), the driver's helper and brother, is also among the injured.
It was learnt that the speeding van driver reached Muddha village around 7:30am, at least 15 minutes behind schedule. The children's parents advised Vishal to drive slow, but he said he had to reach school by 8:30am.
Yovanpreet Kaur (8), who along with her five-year-old brother Jagdeep Singh was among the survivors, told HT: "When our bus reached the main road, the driver lost control and hit the truck. The van's roof came apart and my eyes were clouded by blood due to a head injury."
"I found Manpreet Singh, the student sitting on the adjoining seat, lying in a pool of blood. Kids were crying for help. Someone came and lifted me from my seat, where I was stuck along with my brother," Yovanpreet said, adding that her cousin Karanveer Singh (10) was among the dead.
Parents of the deceased children said they had repeatedly lodged complaints of rash driving, but the school authorities had not taken any action against the driver.
When contacted by HT, school principal Amandeep Kaur said "We have nothing to do with the van and its driver. The parents themselves had made the transport arrangements."
"It is a sad and shocking incident. We have lost 13 students," she added, stating that the school authorities had announced compensation of Rs. 1 lakh each to families of the deceased children and Rs. 50,000 each to the injured.
Meanwhile, a case under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has been registered against the truck driver, who is absconding.
The deceased children have been identified as Gurjovan Singh, Sukhmandeep Singh, Jaskaran Singh, Manpreet Singh (s/o Mohan Singh), Harjasmeet Kaur, Kiranjeet Kaur (all from Muddha village), Kanwarpreet Singh, Jashanpreet Singh, Manpreet Singh (s/o Baljinder Singh), Gurjot Singh, Gurleen Kaur, Navpreet Kaur and Karanveer Singh (all from Talwandi Bharo village).