Pujaa, a Class I student, suffered injuries on her head and face as she fell out through it

A defective latch is said to have led to the sudden opening of the emergency exit in a school van, through which a five-year-old girl fell and suffered serious injuries near Erode on Thursday evening.

The girl, S.A. Pujaa, a Class I student of Amarjyothi Public School in Arachalur, was returning home in the van, when the accident took place. She has been admitted to the intensive care unit of a private hospital in Coimbatore. The hospital said a computed tomography scan did not reveal any brain injury or internal bleeding in the head. She had suffered only a contusion.

In the preliminary investigation, a team of officials from the transport department led by Regional Transport Officer S. Lakshmanaswamy found that two bolts of the emergency door’s latch were loose.

“The vehicle is new. It was purchased and registered in July this year. The emergency door is located on the right side of the van. Its latch is sealed behind breakable glass. Two of the bolts of the latch were found loose, which was the reason for the sudden opening. Constant vibration could have caused the bolts to come loose,” Mr. Lakshmanaswamy said.

The vehicle was seized and taken to the Erode Regional Transport Office to carry out further checks. The transport officials submitted a report based on their preliminary investigation to the district administration.

Meanwhile, Arachalur police arrested the van driver V. Santhakumar (40) of Veerappampalayam and the assistant Santhamani (42) of Ammapalayam. When contacted, the school principal did not wish to comment on the incident officially. School Chairman R. Subramaniam said the vehicle was in good condition. “We do not know how this happened.”

Pujaa’s father K.R. Anand said: “She suffered injuries on her head and face. Doctors say said there is nothing to worry. But, she does not remember how she fell through the emergency exit. She is frightened.”