In one of the worst road accidents in Rajasthan, 26 college students were killed and 34 injured when the bus they were travelling in plunged 60 feet down into a dry riverbed at Morel in Sawai Madhopur district early on Monday. The bus broke the railings of a bridge after ramming a stationary vehicle.

The accident took place at 3-20 a.m. when the bus, packed with the students and staff of Mother India Teachers' Training College of Khanpur in Jhalawar district, was returning from Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh after an excursion. Fourteen of the injured were stated to be in a serious condition.

According to police sources, 62 persons, including 51 students and 11 staff members, were in the bus. While 21 died on the spot, five succumbed to their injuries on way to hospital. Most of the victims were in the age group of 19 to 22 years, and 11 of them were girls.

Nine of the injured have been referred to the Maharao Bhim Singh Hospital in Kota, while others are being treated at the Government Hospital in Sawai Madhopur. Rescuers had to cut open the roof of the mangled bus at the accident site, 50 km. from Sawai Madhopur town, to pull out the dead and the injured.

Eyewitnesses quoted one of the injured students as saying that the group had left five days ago for a trip to Haridwar, where ‘Mahakumbh' is currently in progress. They were returning after visiting Mathura and Vrindavan when the accident took place at the Morel river-bed on the Lalsot-Sawai Madhopur highway.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has condoled the death of the students. He sent the Minister of State for Public Relations, Ashok Bairwa, who represents Khandar constituency in Sawai Madhopur, to the accident site to look after the rescue operations.

Home Minister Shanti Dhariwal, making a statement in the Assembly, announced a financial assistance of Rs.50,000 to the next of kin of each of the deceased, Rs. 25,000 to each of the seriously injured and Rs.10,000 to each of those injured in the mishap.