The Deputy Commissioners of Chamba, Kinnaur and Shimla have ordered separate magisterial probes in all three tragedies. The police said preliminary reports suggest that cause of accidents seems to be human error or vigilance on the part of the drivers.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who conveyed his condolence to the families of the deceased, said rash driving was suspected to be main cause of the accidents and corrective steps will soon be taken to stop deaths on roads.
“Himachal Pradesh’s only mode of communication are roads. If no checks were imposed on negligent and rash driving, travelling will become completely unsafe,” said Singh.
Even as death toll in Chamba bus accident rose to 17, after three more persons succumbed to their injuries on Saturday night, Kinnaur district woke up to a shock with reports of 13 deaths in a road accident at Bada Kamba in Nichar area last Saturday night.
The accident took place between 10:00-10:15 pm when 14 persons were returning from a marriage party in vehicle no HP 26 A 1197 – a Bolero Camper – that plunged into a 350-feet deep gorge. One person managed to jump out of the vehicle in time and is the known to be the only survivor in the incident.
The biggest bus accident, however, took place at Bajroli Pul near Sainj on Theog-Chopal road, when an HRTC bus skidded off the road and rolled down into a gorge, killing 11 and leaving 25 others injured.
Most of the victims were locals and many were reportedly on weekend trips to their native villages. Among them was also the wife of Puran Chand, a private secretary in the Chief Minister’s office, who was travelling in the bus.
Deputy Commissioner Shimla Rohan Thakur said there were around 36 persons travelling in the bus, including driver Parvinder. Four persons died on the spot while others succumbed to their injuries either at the hospital (Theog) or while on the way to the hospitals.
Transport Minister G S Bali, who was in Bangalore only a day before for a meeting on road safety, said, “I have asked the MD HRTC to submit me a report about the cause of the accident and also condition of the bus. I will go to the spot to ascertain facts as this was a huge tragedy. Several families have lost their dear ones, which is a matter of serious concern. We have taken steps to make travelling safe yet these things continue to send alarm sometimes.”
Thakur said the district administration has disbursed immediate relief to the next of kins and ensured free medical care for the injured.
Chopal MLA Balbir Verma, who reached the spot immediately after the accident reports, said, “One of the families of his constituency has lost more than two members in the tragedy. Many of the victims were personally known to me. There was no problem with the road at site of the tragedy. It’s difficult to give reasons as to what went wrong. The driver has also died.”
Earlier in the day, District administration Kinnaur also handed over bodies of all the victims to their families.
Said IGP (Shimla ) Zahoor Zaidi: “The accident in Nichar area was so fatal that only one person who jumped out of the vehicle survived. The accident took place around 10 pm and rescue and search operation started little after 10.30 pm by the police and ITBP. Twelve people died instantly and another person died on his way to the hospital. The lone survivor of the accident jumped out of the vehicle,” he said.
Earlier this month, 22 people had died and 78 others were injured in two major bus accidents in Mandi and Kangra districts involving a HRTC bus and a tourists bus from Amritsar.