Six tourists from Bengal died and 15 were critically injured after a tourist bus fell into a gorge at Kalinga Ghat in Ganjam district in Odisha, about 230km from Bhubaneswar, around 12.15am on Wednesday.
All the tourists were from Udaynarayanpur in Howrah.
The group had left Howrah on Monday on an 11-day trip. A total of 77 people were in the sleeper bus called Sagar Samrat.
Residents of Udaynaryanpur said the tourists had been saving up throughout the year for the trip. Last year, they could not go on a trip because of the pandemic. This year, the group was going to Visakhapatnam via Odisha.
The tourists were accompanied by support staff, including a cook and his assistants.
“Every year, all of them would save an amount every month for the annual trip.
The destination would be decided unanimously,” said Namita Mondal, a relative of Mousumi Denre, 40, who died. Mousumi’s daughter Rima, 22, died, too.
“We are devastated. Rima’s wedding was scheduled for later this year and we had started shopping for it,” said Mondal.
The other deceased were Supriya Denre, 33, Sanjeet Patra, 34, Barnali Manna, 34, and cook Swapan Guchait, 44. The cook was from Hooghly.
Police said the driver had lost control of the vehicle near Kalinga Ghat while negotiating a sharp turn on the road along a slope.
The bus fell into a gorge after hitting an electric post, the police said.
After it fell into the gorge, one of the wheels caught fire. “One of the front wheels caught fire and the driver lost his grip on the steering. The vehicle slipped and overturned,” said a senior officer of Odisha police.
Five passengers died on the spot. The sixth died at a hospital in Bhanjanagar.
The passengers said the driver failed to negotiate a sharp turn following a brake failure.
The bus was going to Visakhapatnam from Daringbadi, a tourist spot, in Odisha’s Kandhamal district.
Injured passenger Laltu Denre, 39, who works in a jewellery shop, said: “I lost my wife Supriya in the accident. I fractured my hand and my son suffered a grievous injury in the leg.”
The Ganjam superintendent of police, Brijesh Kumar Rai, said: “Six people died in the accident. After we received the information, the police and a fire team rushed to the spot and started the rescue operation. The bodies will be handed to the relatives after post-mortem.”
Odisha and West Bengal chief ministers Naveen Patnaik and Mamata Banerjee mourned the deaths.