44 killed as bus falls into river in Himachal Pradesh; PM Modi announces ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh for next of kin

44 people were killed when a private bus plunged into River Tons in remote Nerwa area of Shimla district on Wednesday.

Last Updated: Apr 19, 2017, 19:47 PM IST

Shimla: In a tragic incident, at least 44 people were killed when a private bus plunged into River Tons in remote Nerwa area of Shimla district on Wednesday.

Two people, including the conductor, managed to escape by jumping off the bus as it skidded off the road.

The lone surviving passenger claimed mechanical failure was the cause of the accident.

The bus, with at least 46 people on board, was on its way to Tuini from Vikasnagar town (both in Uttarakhand), via the state, when the bus skidded off the mountain road and fell into Tons river, a tributary of the Yamuna, more than 250 metres below the road.

The accident spot, 12 km from the Uttarakhand border, is near Gumma in Nerva tehsil, some 190 km from the state capital. It is one of the remotest places in the state.

Deputy Commissioner Rohan Thakur confirmed the toll.

He said the cause of the accident was yet to be ascertained and a majority of the victims were from the two states.

"The terrain where the accident occurred is very tough. Without a probe, it's difficult to say whether the accident happened due to human error or mechanical failure," Thakur told IANS over phone from the spot.

The victims included 10 women and three children, he said.

Naresh Chauhan, the only surviving passenger, claimed that one of the leaf springs of the bus snapped just prior to the accident.

"The driver and the conductor got down from the bus when the leaf spring broke down. After inspecting the leaf spring, they continued with the journey," he told police.

He said that at one point when the driver applied the brakes on a turn, the bus tilted.

"Sensing that the bus was about to overturn, I, sitting close to the back door, jumped out," he added.

Superintendent of Police DW Negi told reporters in Shimla that the conductor who fled from the accident spot was later apprehended.

He said all the bodies, which were badly mutilated, have been recovered and process was on to identify them.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed anguish over the loss of lives and announced ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of each of those killed.

"Extremely anguished by the loss of lives due to the bus accident in Himachal Pradesh. Condolences to the families of the deceased," he said.

He also announced Rs 50,000 for each of those seriously injured in the bus accident.

(With Agency inputs)