In a tragic incident, a tourist bus carrying over 50 passengers fell off a bridge over a river in Khed taluka of Ratnagiri district in the wee hours of Tuesday, killing 37 people and critically injuring more than a dozen.
The driver of the bus escaped with minor injuries and was arrested by the police.
According to the police, the accident took place around 3.35am when the driver of a Goa-Mumbai Mahakali Travels bus apparently lost control over the vehicle when crossing the Bharne bridge across the Jagbudi river.
The driver, Santaji Kirdat (35), crashed into the iron safety grilles of the bridge, making the bus careen off the bridge, falling 40 feet into the dried-up river bank.
With RTO officials stating that the bus was in good condition, the likely cause of the accident appears to be human error, said investigators.
Explaining how the incident occurred, inspector general of police, Konkan range, Sukhwinder Singh told DNA, “The driver should have been driving on the left side of the bridge on way to Mumbai. But the bus crashed into the railings on the right side and fell down. This indicates that the driver was not in control of the vehicle.”
He added that the Bharne bridge is a narrow bridge, only four metres wide. “Vehicles ply from both sides, but if a heavy vehicle is passing, then the other vehicles on the opposite side have to halt till it passes.” The dead included those of seven females.
The accident, prima facie, a result of an error on the part of bus driver Kirdat.
The driver has been arrested and booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and negligence.
Sources at the site of the accident said Kirdat had made no attempt to flee, and had instead tried to help the injured.
Superintendent of police (Ratnagiri) Deepak Pandey said the driver’s blood and urine samples had been taken. “We believe he was not drunk. It seems the accident was a result of the driver’s inability to control the vehicle along a narrow stretch of the road.”
Pandey said Kirdat had, in his statement, said that the accident occurred because he could not apply the brakes at the right moment.
The ill-fated bus was in good condition, said officials of the Regional Transport Office (RTO) who inspected it soon after the accident to figure out if the mishap was caused due to human or mechanical error.