Asansol, April 5: A Calcutta-bound private bus hit a stationary truck laden with stone chips on the Grand Trunk Road near Searsole early this morning, killing 11 people, including a woman and her one-year-old son.
Police said the bus, which was coming from Rajgir in Bihar and was travelling very fast, fell into a ditch after hitting the truck around 3.30 am in the Ranigunj police station area. Most of the passengers are residents of Bihar, Calcutta and Howrah.
Five of the passengers died on the spot and six succumbed to injuries in the Asansol sub-divisional hospital later in the morning. Police said nine passengers are in hospital in a critical condition. Most of those dead and injured suffered severe head and chest injuries.
The five who died have been identified as Mohammed Islam, 45, Mohammed Kalam, 32, Rajesh Kumar, 20, Sujata Shaw, 35, and her one-year-old son, Vivekananda. Sujata’s two daughters, Minu and Priti, are in hospital.
“The bus was travelling quite fast. I and my husband had dozed off when suddenly we felt a violent jolt and fell on the floor,” said Rupa Singh, one of the injured. Her husband, Brijmohan, has been referred to the Calcutta Medical College Hospital.
Residents of the area and police tried to extricate the passengers trapped inside the bus that had come to rest on its left side, blocking the doors. Police had to use oxyacetylene cutters to cut through to the interior of the mangled vehicle.
“Without the gas cutters it would have been impossible to get the victims out as the intensity of the collision had twisted the seats and metal frames inside the bus,” said Raju Bauri, a local youth.
Residents charged the police with negligence as the stone-chip laden truck was parked in the middle of the road. The driver of the truck has not yet been traced, the police said.
“What actually took place is yet to be ascertained. Our preliminary investigation has shown that the dump truck had some mechanical problem and had stalled. Many among the passengers have also pointed out that the bus was running late and the driver was speeding to make up for lost time,” said the Burdwan superintendent of police B.N. Ramesh.
The district administration is trying to ascertain whether the bus was plying with valid permits. Though civil officials said the police had been asked to check the papers of all buses plying inter-state routes, the latter insist that the motor vehicles department should scrutinise the documents.
Sudarshan Das, secretary of the Inter-State Bus and Mini-Bus Operators’ Association, blamed the authorities for allowing a large number of buses to ply the highway illegally. “More than 150 buses ply the Grand Trunk Road between Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand without valid permits,” alleged Das.