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Collision kills 9, sparks mob fury

Ranchi/Jamshedpur, Feb. 3: Nine passengers of a pick-up van were killed this morning in a head-on collision with a trailer on Hatgamharia-Jagannath Road, West Singhbhum, the accident spurring massive arson and roadblock and giving tainted former chief minister Madhu Koda an emotive issue in a poll year.

In a state beset by potholed roads, the reason behind today’s mishap is a tragic twist of irony. The unusually smooth road in the interiors of an economically backward district — the site is 2km from Jagannathpur block and 110km from Jamshedpur — motivated both drivers to rev up speed.

Driver apart, others in the van were small-time vendors who had crammed themselves inside the vehicle or clambered on its roof with wares.

The trailer’s impact killed five men in the van instantaneously around 8.30am. Of the four others, three succumbed at Jagannathpur Referral Hospital and one at a government hospital at Champua in Odisha’s Keonjhar district, bordering West Singhbhum.

Three injured men were shifted to Tata Main Hospital (TMH) in Jamshedpur from Jagannathpur around 3pm. Madhu Koda, now Chaibasa MP, and his MLA wife Geeta, claimed credit for sending them. Both demanded a trauma care centre for the area, citing better roads led to more vehicles and accidents.

Hatgamharia police took the five bodies from the spot and three others from Jagannathpur to Chaibasa sadar hospital for post-mortem. It is still not clear why one man was taken to the Keonjhar hospital in Odisha, where he died.

The news spread like wildfire to Jagannathpur, 2km away, drawing hundreds from Jagannathpur to the spot. Protesters torched four trucks, ransacked the Jagannathpur hospital and set up a roadblock to demand Rs 20 lakh as compensation for each next-of-kin. The roadblock lifted at 6pm.

West Singhbhum SP N.K. Singh said all the victims were from the minority community.

The trailer driver has fled.


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