The Goa government called off the carnival festivities, which were about to begin in the city on Saturday evening, following a tragic accident in which four schoolgirls and two adults were killed when a minibus plunged into the Calvi river at Aldona village of north coastal Goa, 30 km from here on Saturday afternoon. One woman is missing.

Chief Secretary Sanjay Srivatsava said on Saturday evening that the government had ordered a magisterial inquiry into the accident and ordered payment of Rs.2 lakh each to the kin of the deceased.

The victims are Priyal Praksh Salgaonkar (10), Diana Chris Dias (8) and her sibling Elvina Dias (11), Nigel Gracias (10), Josephine Salvador Dias (58), all from Calvi island and Dayanand Janardan Hoble (55) from Mayem. The minibus plunged into the river near the ferry wharf at Aldona when the driver reportedly lost control of the vehicle owing to brake failure. The driver and conductor jumped out of the vehicle as the bus fell.

Driver Rajesh Chandrakant Naik, who surrendered to the police, has been charged under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code for culpable homicide, Deputy Inspector-General of Police Ravindra Yadav told journalists. He had a word of praise for the local youth for helping the rescue teams.

Apart from the State administration, Marine police, Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard, Indian Army and Drishti Rescue Services joined the rescue operations. Three Chetak helicopters and 10 divers, assisted by locals in canoes removed the minibus almost two hours after the accident.

According to eyewitnesses, hundreds of people rushed to the spot and began rescue operations while the government's disaster management machinery was late to respond. At the site, people complained about the government's failure to quickly mobilise disaster response equipment.

Governor K. Sankaranarayanan, Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and others expressed shock and grief over the tragic incident and conveyed their sympathies to the bereaved families.

DIG Yadav said rescue teams would continue the operations on Sunday morning as the driver had hinted at one missing adult. The Church in Goa expressed its grief over the tragedy. Archdiocese of Goa and Daman and Archbishop-Patriarch Filipe Neri Ferrao offered condolences to the bereaved families.