At least 26 persons including 21 died on the spot and more than 16 were injured when a bus ferrying pilgrims from Char Dham Yatra plunged into a deep gorge about 2 km from Byasi in Tehri district here.
Officials said that there were a total of 43 persons on-board the ill-fated bus and that the death toll may increase. Of the six seriously injured, four were admitted to Jolly Grant hospital and two were referred to Dehradun; those referred to Dehradun succumbed to their injuries in the hospital. The condition of the four, who have been admitted to Jolly Grant, is very critical and they may succumb to their injuries so death toll may increase late night.
The rescue and relief operations at the site are on and the police have so far saved 18 persons. A total of 21 bodies were fished out of the Ganga and cops are waiting for their post-mortem reports to ascertain the actual cause of death. All pilgrims including two children were from Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh. They were en route to Rishikesh after completing 10-day long Char Dham Yatra on Tuesday.
The mishap took place on Tuesday afternoon, around 12:55 pm. The bus, which was returning from the 10-day pilgrimage of Char Dham shrines in the Garhwal region, fell into a gorge more than 50 metres deep at Kaudiyala near Byasi. According to police, the driver of the ill-fated bus lost control of the vehicle while overtaking a truck causing the bus to fall off the road. The 43 passengers included 20 female, 21 male pilgrims and 4 bus staff. The local police were informed about the incident and reached the site along with senior officials of the Tehri District Administration.
Sushil Gairola, bus driver working for Tehri Garhwal Motor Owners Union (TGMOU), sustained minor injuries in the accident and is presently in police custody. During questioning Gairola told police that the mishap took place when a loaded truck hit the ill-fated bus from the rear. “We are, however, yet to verify this as we have not found any traces of a truck in the place. A magisterial inquiry will be ordered in the case soon,” Tehri DM Dr RK Sinha disclosed while talking to The Pioneer over phone.
The seriousness of the accident can be gauged by the fact that the DM further said that he had never seen nor heard of such an accident in Uttarakhand since he joined in 2005.
Meanwhile rescue and relief operations involving local residents, administration and water police are on. While a total of 24 bodies have been recovered from the site so far, the toll is expected to increase.
The police who are investigating the case said that a complaint of accidental death has been registered in connection with the case. “Our first priority is to save the accident victims. Though the toll is expected to rise, we are also hopeful some more persons would have evaded the mishap with injuries,” a senior cop said.