| The minibus that killed a school student on the Balurghat-Raiganj state highway. Picture by Mithun Roy
Balurghat, July 11: A 12-year-old girl going to school on a bicycle was crushed by a speeding bus that was trying to overtake a trekker on the Balurghat-Raiganj state highway today.
After the accident at Raghunathpur, local people blocked the road for an hour, ransacked the bus and tried to set it on fire. The protest was lifted around 11.30am.
Four other children were injured. All were on cycles and going to school. Police said the driver of the bus fled.
According to eyewitnesses, the minibus driver lost control while trying to overtake the Balurghat-bound trekker and it hit five schoolchildren. The bus then turned on its side and fell into a ditch.
The accident spot at Raghunathpur is 4km from here.
Fulmani Murmur, 12, died on the spot and Soma Mahanta, 17, Ramen Hansda, 14, Shibcharan Pahan, 14, and Subrata Murmu, 12, have been admitted to the district hospital here.
Doctors said all four children have suffered injuries on the head, back, neck, hands and legs and Soma and Subrata are in critical condition.
While Soma is a Class XI student of Ashutosh Girls High School in Balurghat, the other children, including Fulmani, are from B.M. High School in Raghunathpur.
We were going to B.M. High School on bicycles when we saw a trekker speeding towards Balurghat. Suddenly, a minibus came from behind and hit us and then turned on its side. We escaped somehow but Fulmani came under the vehicle and could not get out. I cannot remember anything else as I lost consciousness after the accident, Ramen said from his hospital bed.
The police said six persons in the minibus that was travelling from Kumarganj, 30km from here, were injured and administered first aid at the district hospital.
Around 40 passengers were in the bus.
I saw trekker and a minibus rushing towards Balurghat at a great speed around 10.25am. The bus driver lost control while trying to overtake the trekker the vehicle fell off the road and hit some students who were going to school on bicycles. Then the bus fell in a ditch, said Biswanath Rabidas, a local resident.
The accident spot is 30metre away from B.M High School.
Sources said although the state highway was widened in 2009, there are no dividers on the road.
Since the expansion of the highway the (average) speed of the vehicles that ply on the route have been increased. The school is next to the highway and around 800 students study here. We are always concerned about their safety. We have requested the administration several times to set up a speed barrier in front of the school. But nothing has been done, said Debabrata Sarkar, the teacher in charge of B.M. High School.
After the accident, local people blocked the highway and tried to set the bus on fire. Some students of B.M. School also joined the protest that disrupted traffic for almost an hour.
The state highway is the only road that connects North and South Dinajpurs and over 60 vehicles were held up on both sides because of the blockade.
The blockade was withdrawn after the inspector in charge of Balurghat police station, Manaj Chakrabarty, and assured the protesters that steps would be taken to install a speed breaker near the school.
It is very unfortunate that a student died like this. I have come to know that the school has requested the administration to set up a speed breaker near the institution. I will take steps to do the needful, said Chirantan Nag, the police chief of South Dinajpur.