HYDERABAD: The driver of the bus that plunged into a ravine in Telangana killing 57 people was conferred the best driver award by the government only last month, officials said Wednesday even as the death toll from the accident rose to 60.
The overcrowded state roadways bus had swerved off the road and hurtled down a hillside into a gorge near Shanivarapet village, 200 km from Hyderabad, Tuesday, in what is one of the worst highway tragedies in recent times.
In a preliminary report submitted to the government, the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) indicated that the accident happened when driver Srinivas, who was also killed, either lost control while trying to avoid a collision with an oncoming vehicle or negotiating a sharp downhill curve, a corporation official said.
The official, who did not want to be named, dismissed media reports that the driver had taken the dodgy shortcut to save fuel, insisting “it is the regular route, and the driver was also regular”. Srinivas was not only presented the best driver award last month, but was also earlier rewarded for best fuel efficiency, which indicated his impeccable driving skills, the official told PTI.
The official also ruled out the possibility of brake failure being the cause of accident.
“Based on prima-facie information, a preliminary report has been submitted to the government. A detailed report will follow after a thorough inquiry,” he said.
A police officer said the number of those killed rose on Wednesday when a woman succumbed to injuries during treatment, while 27 people are still undergoing treatment in hospitals in Jagtial and Karimnagar districts and the condition of at least three is serious.
All the bodies were identified and handed over to the families after post-mortem and inquest, Jagtial deputy superintendent of police Venkat Ramana told PTI.
The deceased included 37 women and five children.
Some of the victims were pilgrims returning to Jagtial from the temple town of Kondagattu after offering prayers at the famous Hanuman temple.
The deceased were from nearby villages and most were daily commuters, he said. Some of them died due to suffocation, while others succumbed to head injuries.
A case has been registered and investigation is on, Ramana said. He said experts will examine the vehicle to ascertain the exact cause of the accident.
Police and TSRTC officials said around 90 passengers were on the bus against seating capacity of 54 when it met with the accident. The bus depot manager was suspended Tuesday, the TSRTC official said.