A tanker ploughed through vehicles and people at a fair in Ranipool near Sikkim capital Gangtok on Saturday evening, killing three and injuring 24.
Sources said that a tanker veered toward the ground where a tambola game was being played as a part of a fair at Ranipool, some 10km from Gangtok, around 7.13pm.
Three persons, including one from Jaigoan in Bengal, were crushed to death.
The deceased have been identified as Rikzing Dorjee Bhutia, 32, from Pakyong, Pema Tseten Bhutia, 20, from Sang, both in Sikkim, and Doma Sherpa, 33, from Jaigoan of Alipurduar district in Bengal, said a source.
Of the 24 injured persons rushed to the nearby Central Referral Hospital (CRH), six were found to be critical and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit and four were discharged. The rest were admitted to the surgical ward of the hospital.
The injured also include persons from Kalimpong and Malda districts in Bengal.
"The vehicle veered towards the ground. Had the tanker not hit the cars it would have ploughed through the crowd that was playing tamola during the second-last day of the fair,” said a source.
Four cars and five two-wheelers were damaged during the incident.
Sources said that the tanker was going to Ranipool from Singtam. Police are investigating whether the arrested driver, Madan Darzi, 24, was under the influence of liquor or contraband substances.
“The police will also carry out a mechanical inspection of the tanker,” said a source.
Controversy has also erupted on two counts over the incident.
"Probe has revealed that the driver is a citizen of Nepal who has been staying at Mangan in north Sikkim for work. Questions are being raised on whether he followed proper processes to obtain a driving licence,” said a source.
Second, the tanker also bore the logo of the Sikkim Milk Union, a milk cooperative. Milk union officials, however, clarified that the 13-year-old tanker had been auctioned to one Rajesh Kumar Tamang in 2023.
“We do not own the vehicle anymore, it was auctioned in running condition in 2023,” said an SMU official, adding that the “buyer should not have used the logo on the vehicle".
The Sikkim government had announced a sum of Rs 5 lakh to the next-of-kin of the deceased.
It will also bear all the expenses for the treatment of the injured.