Thirty seven people were killed and 15 injured in the worst-ever accident on the Mumbai-Goa highway when a private tourist bus fell off a bridge at 3.30 a.m. on Tuesday.

The bus from Goa was on way to Mumbai. Police said the driver lost control when it was crossing the bridge over the Jagbudi River near Khed in Ratnagiri district. The bus landed upside down on a dry patch of the river. Identification of the bodies was delayed as many of them had become unrecognisable. The injured include several foreign tourists.

“We cannot say whether the driver was drunk,” said Mahendra Pardeshi of Khed police station. The driver, who was injured, has been admitted to a hospital in Khed.

Locals rushed to the spot after they heard a loud noise and immediately informed the authorities, who started the rescue work within an hour. The injured, 10 of whom are in a critical condition, have been taken to hospitals here and in Khed.

The accident has once again fuelled the debate over the need to speed up expansion work of the Mumbai-Goa highway. Bhaskar Jadhav, guardian Minister of Ratnagiri and Minister of State for Urban Development Department, on Tuesday agreed that the expansion project had been delayed. “It is necessary to complete the project to avoid any such incidents,” he said.

PTI reports: Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan announced in the Legislative Assembly a compensation of Rs. 2 lakh each to the kin of the victims and Rs. 50,000 to the injured.