Malbazar, Dec. 13: Suspected drunk driving claimed the lives of 15 people when the driver of a speeding bus bound for Shillong lost control and crashed into a pillar of a rail overbridge early this morning.
At least 42 people were injured in the accident that occurred around 3.30 am about a kilometre from the Malbazar police station. The private bus, bearing a Manipur registration number, and carrying 125 passengers, had started on its journey from Kakarvitta in Nepal.
Officer-in-charge of the Malbazar police station S.B. Subba said: “Many of the passengers told us the driver was drunk and was driving too dangerously. We are trying to track him down.” The bus was travelling at break-neck speed when the driver lost control while trying to negotiate a bend and struck a pillar of the Rangamati rail overbridge.
Most of the passengers were daily-wagers on their way to Assam. All 15 killed were Nepalese.
The injured were taken to Mal Rural Hospital from where they were shifted to the Jalpaiguri Sadar Hospital. The administration did not have enough vehicles to take those severely injured to the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri.
“Anil Karki, the owner of the bus, has been arrested along with substitute driver Mahendra Singh. We are trying to trace the driver who is absconding,” Jalpaiguri superintendent of police Siddh Nath Gupta said.
Residents of Malbazar said they were woken up by what they thought was a bomb blast. Anup Patra, who was among the first to rush to the spot, said: “It was pitch dark and I heard a loud noise. I managed to spot the mangled chassis of the bus. By then, other people had also rushed to the spot. We tried to extricate the bodies trapped inside.”
Shyam Bahadur Thapa, one of the passengers who survived, was asleep when disaster struck. “I was thrown off my seat. Only then did I realise that our bus had crashed into something. But because it was pitch-dark, I could hardly make out anything. It was sheer luck that I managed to squeeze myself out after the residents broke open one of the doors at the rear-end of the vehicle.”
For Madhumaya Rai, it was divine intervention that saved her. “We escaped with bruises and fractures because we got a seat at the rear. Just look at the battered bodies of those who were sitting in front,” she said.
Marriage bus mishap
Seven passengers of a bus were injured when it rammed into a tree near Mayo Road in Calcutta this evening. Two of them had to be admitted to SSKM Hospital. The reserved bus was headed for a wedding and the driver was allegedly drunk, the police said.