| An accident victim being brought to RIMS while a relative of an injured person weeps. Pictures by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi/Garhwa, March 27: The last thing they heard was a Hindi film song being played inside the bus. The next moment, the bus, carrying 36 poll personnel, mostly primary school teachers, to Garhwa, hurtled down the dilapidated Marwania overbridge sans railings to a dry stream from a height of 30 ft.
As many as 14 died in the accident and 21 were injured, three of them critically. Eleven of them died on the spot and three succumbed to injuries later at the district headquarters.
The chief electoral officer, Debashis Gupta, directed the Garhwa district administration to immediately release Rs 10 lakhs to the kin of each of the deceased.
The teachers were being transported to Garhwa from Ramana Block and the distance is generally covered in about 45 minutes. They were expected to receive poll material and last-minute briefing before setting out for poll duty.
Reckless driving and a blind curve appear to have caused the accident, which also took the life of the driver, Rakesh Tiwary.
Fourteen of the survivors were flown to Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in a state government chopper, which was being used by chief minister Madhu Koda for electioneering. Since the chopper was in Garhwa, the injured were shifted relatively fast.
One of the survivors, C.N. Dubey, admitted in RIMS, recalled: “The driver had switched on the tape and we were enjoying the Hindi songs. The driver was driving the vehicle at considerable speed. Suddenly we saw the vehicle moving towards one side of the bridge and before we could raise an alarm, the bus fell into the stream.”
Another teacher, Ramanand Pandey, had a miraculous escape because he chose to travel to the district headquarters on his motorcycle.
Garhwa deputy commissioner Amitabh Kaushal denied initial reports that the driver was drunk.
Nizamuddin Ansari, who accompanied his uncle Alimuddin Ansari to RIMS, claimed that the bridge is poorly maintained, has no railings and the road is full of pot-holes.
He blamed the district administration for not maint- aining the bridge properly or not repairing it at regular intervals.
“Every year about half-a-dozen mishaps take place at that blind curve and dozens of people get killed,” he alleged.
It took close to two hours after the accident for arrangements to fly the injured to Ranchi, claimed Kamlesh Pandey, general secretary of the Garhwa district unit of Jharkhand Primary Teachers Association.
“We staged a demonstration for over an hour before the state government hastily arranged for the chopper,” he claimed.