Nineteen people on board a Kerala State Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus were killed when a 30-tonne truck hit the central median of the National Highway and the container it was carrying fell on the bus on the outskirts of Tiruppur in Tamil Nadu early on Thursday.
The accident occurred near Avinashi on NH 544 connecting Salem and Kochi. Police said the bus was plying from Bengaluru to Ernakulam. Around 3.15 a.m., the truck carrying imported tiles from the Kochi port hit the central median, which was about a foot high, on the six-lane highway and entered the opposite lane.
The sudden jerk caused the detachment of the heavy container, which fell on the bus that was passing by, crushing one side of the passenger vehicle, according to the police.
The Tiruppur city police nabbed truck driver A. Hemaraj, 38, who fled the accident spot, near Perundurai in Erode district.
“He fell asleep while driving the truck,” Tiruppur Police Commissioner Sanjay Kumar told The Hindu.
The bus had a seating capacity of 48 passengers and two crew members, of whom 19, including driver Gireesh died, and 25 were injured. Among the 50 people (as per the KSRTC list), 46 have been accounted for and the status of four is yet to be confirmed, according to the police. They are trying to ascertain if the four had boarded the vehicle or had left the accident spot on their own having possibly sustained only minor injuries.
Tiruppur Collector K. Vijayakarthikeyan, the Police Commissioner and other district officials visited the accident site around 7 a.m.
Mr. Vijayakarthikeyan told The Hindu that 25 injured passengers had been shifted to multiple hospitals, including private hospitals in Tiruppur and Coimbatore. One injured passenger was referred to the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital. The bodies of all the victims were shifted to the Tiruppur Government Hospital.
The Thirumuruganpoondi police registered a case against the arrested truck driver. He fled the accident spot and told an acquaintance to pick him up at a spot in Perundurai, which is when the police nabbed him around 12.30 p.m.
He was booked under Sections 279 (rash driving or riding on a public way), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 304A (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code. He is expected to be remanded in judicial custody.