42 killed as speeding bus falls into gorge in Maharashtra


Mumbai : At least 42 people were killed and 39 injured when an overloaded bus carrying them from Nashik to Mumbai in Maharashtra fell into a gorge after the driver – who was behind the wheel for four days – lost control over the vehicle, police officials said Monday.

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Paras Thorat, the driver of the ill-fated bus, managed to jump out seconds before the bus fell. He was driving the vehicle without a substitute in the hilly terrain since four days.

“From the survivors in the bus we have come to know that the bus had been driven only by one driver since four days. The pilgrims were on a tour of various shrines in northern Maharashtra,” revealed Nikhil Gupta, superintendent of police in Nashik.

The bus was carrying pilgrims from the Saptashringi Devi temple in Vani village near Nashik when it feel into a 250-metre deep gorge at Ganesh Ghat in Saptashringagad, about 240 km from state capital Mumbai.

Police officials said the accident happened around 10 p.m. Sunday. Initially touring the area in two buses, more than 80 passengers of two buses came together in the ill-fated bus after one of the buses broke down.

“We have found out that the bus was overloaded. There were 81 people in it although it can carry only about 55,” Nikhil Gupta said.

“The driver, who was also injured in the accident, is in a state of shock and is undergoing treatment at the civil hospital. He said he lost control of the steering wheel while negotiating a hairpin bend,” Nikhil Gupta told IANS.

The bus was one of the two owned by Mumbai-based Lucky Travels Company the pilgrims had hired for their annual pilgrimage to Shani Shingnapur, Shirdi and Saptashringi.

“The bus was shattered, leaving the front and back pieces apart. The rescue operations were conducted within three and a half hours of the accident. The local people from the rural area were extremely helpful,” Nikhil Gupta added.

Another police official said: “It was pitch dark in the valley and the sound of shrieks and moans of the injured was the only guide for the police and medical relief teams from Nashik to lead them to the spot.”

Six ambulances were rushed to the spot and people from nearby village used bed sheets to bring up the injured from the depth of the gorge. Most of the passengers were from Mumbai’s Worli area.

While 24 of the injured, some of whom are in a serious condition, are being treated at the Nashik Civil Hospital, 24 more have been admitted to the Kalwan sub-district hospital, sub-inspector R.S. Patil told IANS.

Patil said some pilgrims had shifted from one bus to the other while leaving Saptashringi Devi temple and this led to confusion over the exact number of passengers travelling in the bus that met with the accident and their identities.

In the first list of causalities put out by the police, some of the dead have been identified as Kalpana Milind Patil, 32; Vijaya Janardhan Pednekar, 50; Sandhya Janardhan Pednekar, 29; Nirmala Jamadar, 40; Narayan Lakshmaya Vasam, 55; Aniket Suresh Panchal, 9; Bharati Narayan Johar, 32; Prakash Machindra Gaekwad, 26; Jitendra Kashinath Kamble, 28; Rahul Gupta, 18; Mohan Shamu Dupte, 55; Vijay Narayan Vasam, 55; and Narendra Rajendra Ghatiyal.