A Metropolitan Transport Corporation bus ploughed into three shops near a traffic signal at the intersection of Medavakkam Main Road and Pallavaram – Thoraipakkam Radial Road in Keelkattalai on Monday afternoon. No one was hurt.

Eyewitnesses said the mishap took place as the driver lost control of the vehicle while talking on his mobile phone. Xavier Anbarasu (30), driver of the MTC deluxe bus (route no. 517 K from Kovalam to Pallavaram) was approaching the signal around 1 p.m., when he lost control of the bus and rammed into a couple of shops on the roadside just ahead of the signal. There were less than a dozen passengers inside the bus and no one was hurt.

“I was standing on the other side of the road. I saw the driver talking on his mobile phone while driving. In a matter of seconds, he lost control and the bus ploughed into the shops,” said Sundar, an eyewitness. The shops that were hit were a photo studio belonging to N. Sathish Kumar, a biryani shop belonging to Mustafa and a mobile phone store. “I had closed down the shop only a few minutes earlier to pick my daughter up from school in Madipakkam, and was on my way back to our home in Vellakkal when the accident occurred,” said Sathish Kumar.

However, only the outer walls and projections of the shops were damaged. Property inside the shops was intact. According to Mr. Kumar, usually, there would have been at least 20 people at that time of day at the briyani shop next door, waiting for their lunch or taking it away in parcels. On Monday though, Mustafa was unwell and did not open his shop Mr. Kumar said.

Govindammal Umapathy, owner of the building housing two of the shops, said she had parted with a portion of her land to widen Medavakkam Main Road and wondered if she would receive compensation from the State government for the damage caused to her property. She added that the driver did not even make an attempt to apply his brakes. Traffic police summoned a crane that removed the bus from the spot. Traffic on the road was crippled for nearly an hour. Police said eyewitnesses had told them that the driver was speaking on his mobile phone while driving. The driver was assaulted by angry residents, but managed to escape, police said, adding that they had managed to take him into custody later in the evening. According to the driver, the steering wheel did not function all of a sudden and that was why he had lost control of the vehicle. A case was registered under Section 279 of Indian Penal Code (rash driving or riding on a public way). He was later granted bail at the police station and let off.

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