Barikul, Sept. 6: Jatan Mahato, 35, saw the overcrowded bus veer off the culvert, fall into the turbulent river and being swept away at least 100m.
He was among the 20 youths who were pushing the bus when it had stopped on the culvert following a snag.
“The river current pushed away the bus. The passengers inside were shouting for help. We brought some ropes, tied one end to the concrete polls and trees on the banks and the other to our waists. We waded through the river and reached the bus,” said Mahato, who was leading the team of youths. They managed to save the lives of 43.
Mahato, who lives in nearby Shabar Chata village, had come to Fulkushma to buy vegetables, but decided to stay back till late tonight.
He rued he managed to hold on to Shibani Mandal, but not to her 13-year-old grandson Jit Ghorai, who was washed away.
His body was found later.
“Some of the villagers on the bank pulled the rope tied to our waist as soon as we held on to any passenger. It was a difficult job as the current was very strong and we could not stand in the water properly. We tied our waists with the rope so that we do not washed away,” said Mahato.
The villagers broke the windshield and tied a rope to it and a tree so that the bus stayed there. “We started rescuing the passengers one by one. I stumbled upon a body beside a bolder near the river,” said Anil Mahato, 35.
Searchlights were brought in the evening. A crane was brought to bring the bus to the bank. But the operation was stopped around 8pm as all the passengers were either rescued or their bodies recovered.