Van driver killed; cleaner, two boys suffer grievous injuries
A hitch-hiked ride on a milk van to school proved fatal for seven school boys of Vijayaraghunathapuram, a remote hamlet about 12 km from here, as the van collided with a private bus at Poovarasakudi on the Pudukottai-Aranthangi Road, on Wednesday morning.
The van’s driver was also killed in the accident, while two other school boys and the van cleaner suffered grievous injuries.
All the boys were students of Ramasamy Deivanai Ammal Government Higher Secondary School at Vallathirakottai and belonged to families of daily wagers.
The boys, as is their routine, had walked up to Kaikurichi on the main road from their hamlet, about 1.5 km, to catch buses to the school. They were given a lift by Arumugam of Madhavallikadu, who runs the milk van, on his way back from Pudukottai. The van collided with the bus headed for Pudukottai from Aranthangi at around 9.15 a.m., just about a km away from the school.
The van driver, P.Arumugam (32) of Madhavallikadu, is believed to have swerved slightly to the right on the two-lane road while overtaking a bicycle when the bus travelling at high speed hit the van.
The van was thrown off the road under the impact of the collision, killing all the eight instantaneously. “We heard a loud bang and rushed to find the van lying on the roadside ditch with bodies all around,” said a woman, who resides close to the accident spot. School bags, lunch boxes and body parts lay strewn around the road and also in the van.
Among the dead were R.Sathya, S.Mathiazhagan and A.Vishnu, Plus Two students, R.Narayanasamy, M.Manikandan and M.Arunkumar, all studying Class IX and S.Sivakumar, a standard VI student. Villagers and the police rushed to the spot to rescue three of the injured and transport them to the Pudukottai Government Headquarters Hospital. S.Manikandan, a Plus Two student, R.Rajesh Kumar, Class VI student and Thiyagarajan (40), the van cleaner, were admitted to private hospitals in Tiruchi.
Most of the families of the victims were related to each other and could hardly console each other. Struggling to come to terms with the death of his second son Vishnu,
Annamalai, a daily wager, said the boy, a hosteller, had come home after visiting his grandmother at Ponpethi as he had time left to go to the school.
“He asked five rupees and I asked him to go to school as I had to take his brother for college admission. I never imagined that it would be the last time I saw him,” he said as his elder son, Veerapandi, lay in in the hospital verandah as he had fainted on seeing his brother’s body. Annamalai’s sister Soundaravalli, a widow, too lost one of his two sons in the accident.
Tempers ran high on the hospital premises as a section of angry villagers accused the crew of private mofussil buses of speeding and State Transport Corporation town buses of regularly skipping the Kaikurichi bus stop to avoid students with free bus passes.
Some of the youths from the villages insisted that they would not accept the bodies until a solution was found to the problem. However, Revenue officials pacified the villagers.
Condoling the death of seven school children and the van driver, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa announced a solatium of Rs. 1 lakh to each of the aggrieved families.
*This article has been edited for clarity