Four persons travelling by a newspaper van were killed on the spot and one was injured in an accident near Solapur Cross on Pune-Bangalore national highway , about 50 km from Belgaum, in the early hours of Thursday.
The police identified the dead as Ibrahim Saab (60) and Mohammad Ismail (31), both from Davangere district, Vasappa Dharibal Landge (60) of Gayakanwadi in Chikkodi taluk and Santosh Basappa Gundal (18) of Haveri, the cleaner who was at the wheel when the accident occurred around 4 a.m.
Subash Kulkarni, driver of the van, is absconding. He was reportedly sleeping on the newspaper bundles dumped on the rear seats of the van, which was on its way to Kolhapur from Hubli.
Santosh picked up four passengers en route. Abdul Razaq Bankapur of Shiggaon taluk in Haveri district, who boarded the vehicle at Belgaum bus-stand, sustained injuries in the accident. He was admitted to the government hospital in Sankeshwar town. He is said to be out of danger, according to the police.
The police said they could not ascertain the cause of the accident immediately. They suspect that the van driver could have rammed another vehicle while trying to overtake it. But no other vehicle was found at the accident spot.
Mr. Bankapur, who was yet to overcome the shock, told The Hindu that he woke up to a bang and it took him a while to realise what had happened. He too was not sure about the cause of the accident as he did not see any other vehicle nearby.
He said a few people stopped by and alerted 108 ambulance service and the police.
The Sankeshwar police are on the lookout for the driver.
Cleaner was at the wheel when the accident occurred