Bhubaneswar/Tamluk, Nov. 16: The pilgrimage of a busload of tourists from Tamluk in East Midnapore turned fatal when their vehicle rolled into a roadside ditch in Balasore district of Orissa early this morning. Ten people were killed.
After first aid in Bhogarai, 160 km from Calcutta, the injured were taken to the Digha State General Hospital, 15 km away. Twenty-four people had to be admitted to the hospital.
The passengers were shaken out of sleep when the bus shuddered, swerved and skidded off the road around 3.45 am.
The residents of Dimari, Mahisda and Polonda villages had hired the bus from Tamluk to tour several religious sites in Orissa. They started on Tuesday and had been to Puri, Konark and Khandagiri. The tourists were at the Khirachora temple at Remuna in Balasore last evening and were supposed to return to Tamluk from Chandaneswar at night. But Digha was added to the schedule in the last moment and they left Chandaneswar early this morning.
“We were travelling at a very high speed. Suddenly, our bus hit something, I realised it was heading towards a ditch,” recounted Lalita Guria, a class IX student. Guria’s father was among those killed. Her mother is senseless.
The tour operator, Bharat Das, identified the dead as: Radha Charan Ghorai, Binod Bala Ghorai, Jyotsna Samanta, Guru Charan Maity, Sripati Mullick, Durga Charan Guria, Surobala Das, Sandhya Mullick, Usha Rani Mullick and Archana Mondal.
Das, who was in the Santosh Travels bus, said a “fault” was detected in the steering last night but the driver insisted that he would get it repaired in Digha.
The driver and his helper fled after the accident.
Officials in Bhogarai said the driver failed to negotiate a curve and numerous potholes near the Jaynagar square. Villagers returning from a jatra were the first to hear the cries of the passengers writhing in pain and launch a rescue mission.