Kerala: Nine killed, including five school children in bus collision

Updated on Oct 07, 2022 12:12 AM IST

Locals said the tourist bus was at a high-speed and light drizzle in the area would have resulted in the bus slipping and hitting the KSRTC bus

Among the deceased, five are students, three passengers of the KSRTC and another person a bus employee. (HT Photo)
Among the deceased, five are students, three passengers of the KSRTC and another person a bus employee. (HT Photo)

Nine people, including five schoolchildren, were killed and 22 sustained injuries after a speeding tourist bus rammed into a Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus, at Vadakkencherry in Palakkad district in the early hours of Thursday, police said.

Police said the accident took place around 12am on Thursday, when the tourist bus was driving at 97 km per hour and hit the rear end of the state-run bus while attempting to overtake a car along the Walayar-Vadakkancherry road. Both buses overturned in the impact and rescuers had to break open both the vehicles to rescue those trapped.

The deceased include five students, a school teacher and three passengers of the KSRTC.

“The tourist bus was cruising at a high speed and lost control and hit the KSRTC bus in the rear. We will strengthen safety norms in all private buses,” said transport minister Antony Raju, who ordered an inquiry into the mishap. The minister said school authorities have also ignored the transport department’s directive to get the tour vehicle inspected and verify the track record of the driver before contracting a carriage for the tour.

The driver of the tourist bus, J Joemon, who was absconding after the mishap, was later arrested, an official added.

Taking suo motu cognisance of the incident, the Kerala high court rapped the state government over road safety protocols and directed the transport safety officials to appear before it on Friday. “Issuing circulars is of no use, take action,” said Justice Devan Ramachandran, terming the accident “heart-breaking”.

“We should think how we can prevent such accidents from happening. Many people do not value the lives of others. Why is life worthless? Everyone drives vehicles according to their own preferences. No one is afraid of the law. People escape the consequences by paying fines. That is why the law is often unenforceable,” the court said.

Earlier, the court had ordered removal of high-beam lights and high-sound horns from tourist buses after several complaints surfaced, but the tourist bus involved in the accident had both.Besides, the bus’s speed governor was also tampered with, said transport commissioner S Sreejith.

Officials familiar with the matter said the tourist bus was carrying 42 schoolchildren and five teachers of the Mar Baselios Vidyaniketan Higher Secondary School in Ernakulam for a trip to Ooty. The KSRTC bus, which was heading towards Coimbatore in neighbouring Tamil Nadu from Kottarakkara, was carrying 38 passengers.

Recalling the horror, one of the students said: “I was sleeping and all of a sudden I heard a deafening sound and the bus turned turtle several times. I was trapped under a seat but the student who was sitting beside me was not so lucky.”

Another survivor said some of them complained about the high speed but the driver brushed it aside saying: “I am an experienced master driver.”

President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were among several who condoled the deaths . The PM has also announced 2 lakh ex gratia for the kin of the deceased and 50,000 for the injured.

“I feel extremely sad to know about a heart-wrenching tragedy in Palakkad where we lost precious lives of school children and others. My heartfelt condolences to bereaved families and pray for speedy recovery of the injured,” the President said in her condolence message.

“PM Narendra Modi has expressed grief on the loss of lives due to an accident in Kerala’s Palakkad district. He extends condolences to the bereaved families and prays for a quick recovery of the injured,” Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a tweet.

2 lakh from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of each deceased. The injured would be given 50,000,” it added.

Driver of the KSRTC bus, K Sumesh, who sustained minor injuries, said he was driving within the speed limit. “I was driving at a speed of 50 kmph. The tourist bus hit the right side of my bus all of a sudden and the impact was quite high.”

Earlier, state excise minister MB Rajesh, who visited the accident site, said: “It was a tragic mishap. Bodies of all deceased have been identified. Condition of some of the injured is critical and the government will provide the best medical care to them.”

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