Maharaja, a passenger bus was on its way to Athmallik in Angul district from Boudh district when the driver reportedly lost balance and swerved the vehicle off the bridge on old Manitri bridge. The bus had another 40-odd km left to reach its destination. An eyewitness, Arun Behera, said the driver was talking over phone when a kid riding a bicycle suddenly came from the opposite side. “The driver suddenly took a left turn and broke off the bridge railings,” said Behera.
Loud wailing rented the air as soon as the 10-year-old bus smashed against rocks and pebbles lying below the bridge. District collector Anil Samal said the bus has been completely damaged in the accident. “All the passengers have been taken out of the vehicle,” he said. “Arrangements are being made to shift the injured ones to Angul and other hospitals,” said Samal, adding that all the injured are being treated for free.
This is the second bus tragedy this year in Odisha. In April this year, 27 members of a jatra troupe were killed when a bus carrying it plunged down to a 300-feet gorge in Deogarh disrict during evening hours. While some of the passengers of the bus alleged the driver was drunk and had picked a fight with the owner hours before the accident, transport department officials said the vehicle did not have a fitness certificate for last 3 years.
Odisha has the highest road accident rate among all the states. National Crime Records Bureau statistics say 4,303 people died in road accident last year while 4299 persons died due to same in 2014. In 2013, 4,062 persons died in road accidents. Since 2009, Odisha is losing more than 3,500 lives in road accidents every year. State Crime Records Bureau officials said 50 per cent of accidents occurred on national highways, 25 per cent on state highways and the rest 25 per cent on the remaining roads. The major share of the road victims are pedestrians, cyclists and two-wheeler vehicles.
Concerned over rising road accidents, the Supreme Court Committee (SCC) on road safety has asked the State Government to install speed limiters in the commercial vehicles. The state transport department has meanwhile identified 144 black spots identified on different roads including both National and State Highways to prevent road mishaps. Of the 144 black spots, 64 have been located on State Highways followed by 52 on National Highways .