In a gruesome accident, seven students and the driver were killed and many injured when a Munnar-bound tourist bus fell some 150 feet down a hillside while negotiating a curve at Vimalapuram between Thekkinkanam and Mullakkanam in the hilly Idukki district at 12.45 p.m. on Monday.

The students of the Sarabhai Institute of Science and Technology at Vellanad in Thiruvananthapuram were on a tour. They were final year students of the department and electronics and instrumentation.

The victims have been identified as Jithin, 21, Nanthencode, Thiruvananthapuram; Vignes, 21, Jawahar Nagar Colony, Thiruvananthapuram; Shyju K.C., 22, Thykkattukara, Ernakulam; Sreejesh, 22, Karunagapally, Kollam; Sarathchandran, Ambalamedu, Ernakulam; Manju, Kannur; Hemanth, Palode, Thiruvananthapuram; and driver Rajkumar. The bodies have been kept at the Adimaly taluk hospital, the police said.

Serious injuries

According to early reports, the injuries of many were serious. As many as 12 seriously injured students have been rushed to a private medical college at Kolencherry. One is referred to a hospital at Thodupuzha and another to the Adimaly taluk hospital.

There were 28 young men and 13 young women on the bus in addition to the driver, cleaner, and two relatives of a student. The bus was on its way to Munnar from Kodaikanal.

The bodies of four students who fell under the bus were recovered by the police and Fire and Rescue Services personnel.

The nearby hospital was a private one at Rajakkad and all the victims were first brought there before being rushed to bigger hospitals. Preliminary reports indicate that unfamiliarity of the driver with the steep, mountainous, and inhospitable terrain may have led to the accident. There are four hairpin curves in the area with no protective walls and signboards. Local people and passengers of vehicles passing by started the rescue operations. The presence of a large number of people at the accident spot hampered the rescue operations.

The police opened a control room (phone numbers: 04864 222145, 9497990054) immediately to provide details of the victims.

No permission

It is said that the tour was conducted without the permission of the college authorities and no member of the staff accompanied them. Senior police officers were camping in the area.

Health Minister V.S. Sivakumar visited the accident site and the hospitals where the injured have been admitted. The Minister gave instructions to provide all medical help to the injured students.

Minister for Education P.K. Abdu Rabb ordered a probe into the bus accident. He asked Director of Technical Education J. Letha to conduct the inquiry.

Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said the medical expenses for all those injured would be borne by the government.

“Right now, our aim is to see that the injured get the best treatment and authorities are ensuring that,” Mr. Radhakrishnan said.