Blame game begins as officials inspect bus that fell off flyover on Wednesday

Investigation into the Gemini flyover accident on Wednesday may take an ugly turn with the MTC workers union alleging that the driver is being framed and the faults with the bus are being downplayed. However MTC officials are confident about their vehicle’s condition.

MTC officials and the police say there was no technical fault in the bus and suspect that the driver must have been speeding. The MTC workers union is not ready to buy the argument.

“The bus was taken directly to Alandur bus depot. On Thursday morning, the motor vehicles inspector checked the vehicle. Ideally, the police should have seized the bus or the motor vehicles inspector should have inspected it at the accident scene,” said K. Natarajan, general secretary of MTC Employees Progressive Union.

Initially, there were reports that the driver’s seat was shaky and that could have led to the driver losing control. When the vehicle was inspected on Thursday, the nut and bolt on the driver’s seat looked brand new, Mr. Natarajan said, alleging they could have been changed after the accident. Police however deny any malpractice.

“The bus was taken to the depot because there was no space to park it at the police station. We posted two sub-inspectors near the bus to prevent tampering of any evidence,” said Elango, assistant commissioner of police, traffic investigation. “The motor vehicle inspector told us there was no problem with the driver’s chair. So the accident could be due to the driver’s negligence,” he said.

Traffic police team investigating the bus accident is tracking cellphone towers near the flyover to check if the driver was speaking on phone while driving, as alleged by some commuters.

“We are trying to get call details from the cellphone towers near the flyover. Only after that will we know if he was speaking on the phone when the accident happened,” said Mr. Elango.

Prem Kumar, general manager of MTC, said that he had sought a detailed report on the accident. “We are awaiting the motor vehicle inspector’s report and a copy of the FIR from the police. If we find that the driver is at fault, he will be suspended with effect from Thursday,” he said.

On Thursday, about 500 members of the State transport union gathered at the MTC headquarters to protest against the unfair treatment meted out to the bus driver. They alleged that MTC vehicles were not maintained well enough. Similar protests were held at a few depots across the city.

Even as the blame game continues, traffic experts say not enough attention is paid to the safety and design aspects of roads and flyovers.

“Guide posts or steel barricades should be fixed along parapet walls of flyovers. The walls should be at a higher level than the tyre so that the vehicle does not fall off the bridge if it hits the wall,” said N.S. Srinivasan, former director of Transport Planning and Research Centre.

He said that road safety audits should be conducted on a regular basis. “Accidents may happen due to human error, but roads should be designed in such a manner that the impact is reduced,” he said.

On Thursday, work had begun on rebuilding the wall of the flyover where the bus crashed through.

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