Second accident involving school children in seven months

Just Seven months after the accident at Karikkakam that claimed six children and a caretaker, the Parvathy Puthanar canal turned into a watery grave again on Monday, snuffing out three young lives.

The striking similarity between the two accidents was ironic. For thousands of people across the city who watched live footage of the rescue effort on television, it was virtually a re-run of the accident that happened at Karikkakam on February 17.

A sand-laden country boat floating on the canal proved to be a blessing when the minibus carrying students of Jyothinilayam School, Kazhakuttam, plunged into the water on Monday. The boat cushioned the impact of the plunge and helped the rescuers to commence operations immediately.

Nisha, a standard VII student, who was hospitalised with injuries said the country boat had saved them as their vehicle fell into it before plunging into the canal. “I was sitting in the rear and managed to come to the opposite side when the water gushed into the vehicle. I was helped to safety by an person and transferred to hospital in an ambulance,” she said. Arya Chandra, a standard VIII student, is yet to recover from the shock and trauma of the accident. “I was in the middle seat when the vehicle turned overturned,” she said. Dozens of youths from the locality were in the forefront of the rescue effort. It was a heart-rending scene when the youths, toiling hard to recover bodies from the water, broke down and wept after handing over the listless body of a child to the people on the banks. Others who had gathered on the banks to extend a helping hand also broke into tears at the sight.

Viju, a labourer, who was one of those who reached the spot, said he could rescue three students. Monday's accident has triggered the demand for better regulation and monitoring of vehicles transporting children to school.

District Collector P.M. Francis said law enforcement agencies were keeping a strict tab on school vans since June to ensure that the vehicles adhered to the guidelines issued in the wake of the Karikkakam accident. “It is difficult to monitor private vehicles engaged by parents to take their children to school,” he said.

Asked about the causes for the accident and the steps the district administration was planning to prevent such accidents again, Mr. Francis said the day's efforts were focused entirely on rescue.

Director of Public Instruction (DPI) A. Shajahan said schools should keep track of vehicles transporting students to their institution, even if the vehicle did not belong to the school. Mr Shahjahan feels that school managements and the parent-teacher association should take a more proactive stand in the issue to ensure the safety of students. “A large number of students travel to school in private vehicles. The managements do not accept responsibility for these vehicles. However, schools should put in some system to monitor all such vehicles,” he said. Mr. Shajahan called for documentation of school vehicles and drivers to bring in accountability. “We will have to evolve a system wherein every vehicle bringing children to school is registered at the school,” he said.