Four persons, including three pilgrims from Karnataka, were killed and 14 others injured in a road accident on Dindigul-Palani Highway in the early hours on Monday.

The gruesome accident occurred near Ammapatti pass around 2.30 am when a van, in which the pilgrims were travelling to Palani, collided head on with a State Transport Corporation bus en route to Madurai.

The deceased were identified as Lokesh (27), Vinay (21) and Bharath (23) of Malleswaram in Karnataka. Narasimha Murthy (19), the van driver, who suffered grievous injuries, succumbed at the Government Rajaji Hospital, Madurai, police said. The 14 injured – eight in the van including Raghavendra (18), Pradeep (24), Santhosh (17), Jayanth (21), Manoj Kumar (23), Yashwanth (19) and six in the government bus including driver Anbin Raja (53), Azhagarsamy (48), Mani Raj (32), Ramadurai (51) and Dhanushkodi (54) – were admitted to Dindigul Government Hospital for treatment.

According to eyewitness accounts, three out of 14 pilgrims managed to escape unhurt.

Police said the pilgrims had visited Madurai after darshan at Sabarimala and were going to Palani on their way back to Karnataka. The corporation bus was proceeding to Madurai from Coimbatore.

Quoting a student travelling in the van, the police said the driver was asked to take some rest in the outskirts of Madurai but he did not stop as it was raining. “Travelling at unearthly hours is the prime reason for such accidents,” a senior police officer said.