On Monday afternoon, 10-year-old Ranbir Singh was on his way back home on the school bus. More than 40 children, all aged below 12, were travelling with him after finishing classes at Ram Singh Pathania Memorial School.
The bus entered a rocky, damaged patch of road near Gurchal village on the Nurpur-Chamba road. While trying to avoid hitting a bike and manage difficult turn, the driver lost control and the bus veered off the road, falling into a 200-foot gorge.
“Everyone was screaming as the bus went down,” recalls the Class 5 student.
The vehicle came to rest in the middle of the hillside, suffering massive damage. The window glass panes shattered, falling on the little children.
Ranbir, and another girl – Avni – were flung out of the window, as the bus rolled into the gorge.
“Vani was sitting with me. Together we tried to climb up,” he recalls.
With the help of tree branches and wood, the children managed a steep 50-ft hill climb. Ranbir, also guided Avni to climb up, as she kept on sliding.
Once on the main road, Ranbir alerted passersby which led to locals plunging into actions and the rescue teams reaching the spot in 30 minutes.
According to locals, this is not the first instance of an accident on that particular patch of road.
“There have been few more instances of road accidents here. The authorities did nothing to improve the situation,” a local villager told Zee Media.
Thirty people, including 27 children, died in the incident. School bus driver, 67-year-old Madan Lal, and two women teachers also died in the accident, Kangra SP Santosh Patial said.
A pall of gloom descended in the area as wailing parents rushed to the spot on hearing the news.
The bodies were extricated from the rubble with the assistance of local youth. School bags, stationery items and water bottles were strewn across the accident site.
Many of the accident victims are siblings and cousins.
One family of two brothers lost four children. Their mothers sat crying on the floor, numb with shock and pain.
Naresh Kumar lost both his kids – a son and daughter.
Many parents broke down in grief while identifying bodies of the deceased children.
With agency inputs