An accident of such magnitude involving the ill-fated Volvo bus could have been averted if the vehicle had rammed the culvert on the median head-on instead of the body on the sideways taking the hit.

If the bus had gone straight into the culvert, the cabin would have taken the impact, and the side behind which the diesel tank was located spared. But, the driver steered clear of the culvert, while he could not manage to save the right side body. The bus was reported to be moving at a speed of 120 kmph.

The vehicle had overtaken a car while coming into contact with the culvert and halted a few metres away. The car, which was coming from Kurnool, later stopped ahead of the bus, and its passengers also helped in extinguishing the fire along with the villagers.

Fire officials said the bus had three diesel tanks and about 350 litres of fuel. The large quantity of diesel, high speed and the Freon gas that is used in air-conditioning units, which can fuel fire easily, largely contributed to the mishap. Moreover, the rexine seats of the bus prolonged the fire. Thirty of the forty passengers were trapped in the rear side of the bus which had an emergency exit.

The driver, Feroze, is said to have told police that he had unsuccessfully tried to unlock the door to the cabin through which a passage was provided for passengers. But, sources said the driver, cleaner and five other passengers inside the cabin jumped out in panic. The crew made no attempt to ensure the functioning of the automatic lock system which would have opened the emergency door.

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