Chennai bus hurtles down 15 ft

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The city police is probing all angles, including the possibility of the driver talking on a mobile phone while negotiating the curve on the Anna flyover that resulted in the MTC bus falling from the bridge injuring over 40 passengers.

"We are keeping all options open and will investigate to find out if the accident was due to mechanical failure or careless driving or use of a mobile phone.

It is too early to jump to conclusions," said Mr Sanjay Arora, Additional Commissioner of Police, Traffic, Chennai.

Immediately after the accident, the driver Mr Prasad, 48, reportedly escaped from the scene and took shelter with the police as many people, including members of the public who were helping in the rescue work, were angrily looking for him.

The police interrogated the driver before he was sent to hospital. He reportedly said that he had lost control because the seat had given away while he was negotiating the turn.

The police said that they were tracing the call records of the driver of the bus (route No. 17 M) plying between Broadway and Vadapalani, to ascertain whether he was talking on a mobile phone as has been alleged by some passengers.

This is not the first time MTC drivers have been accused of using mobile phones while driving despite a ban by the MTC.

A MTC bus on the Thoraipakkam — Pallavaram radial road had rammed into roadside shops after the driver lost control as he was talking on his cellphone recently.

Passersby saved passengers’ life

The accident site is virtually at the ‘power centre’ of the city, being close to the residences of the present and former chief ministers, the US consulate general (which is always on high alert) and the government hospitals, yet it took more than twenty minutes for the fire, police and ambulance services to arrive there and help.

“The Teynampet police station and the fire station are about 100 metres away. But for the public rushing in to render immediate help, some of the passengers caught under the capsized bus might have died.

Also, the injured people were made to wait for more than ten minutes as the ambulances too landed late”, said S Balan of Pudupet, lending a hand to pull a lady passenger out of the broken bus window.

Fortunately there were no fatalities though it was a major mishap. The intensity of the victims’ pain was vastly reduced by the quick-witted brave hearts, dozens of them springing from nearby places to partake in the rescue mission. They smashed the front glass of the bus and broke its windowpanes to pull out the screaming victims.

“The accident happened around 1.45 pm and till 2 pm, only the passers-by helped us”, Mr Seenu, a victim told this newspaper. Even as the driver went missing, the public got into the bus through the front glass. Two victims got trapped inside the mangled bus.

The last woman to be rescued had to be pulled out from under the bus. With no government rescue team in sight, about 40 men physically lifted the bus just enough for getting her out.

Many expressed anger that the police and the fire services landed late at the mishap site. Finally, six EMRI ambulances arrived and took the injured to hospitals.

The bus was lifted by a crane and the crash debris was cleared to clear the clogged traffic but by then it was almost four in the evening.

Several injured in stampede after fall

Chaos, confusion and pain reigned on Wednesday at the hospitals where the bus accident victims were taken for treatment.

While 28 persons were admitted to Apollo Hospitals, four were admitted to Royapettah Government Hospital and a few others were taken to Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital.

Later in the day, health minister Dr V.S Vijay and animal husbandry minister T.K.M. Chinnaiah visited the Royapettah Government Hospital and checked on the injured.

Most of the passengers said that they were injured not when the bus fell from the flyover, but due to the chaos that followed. Several suffered cuts and bruises as passengers stampeded to climb out of every possible exit.

Josephine Nirmala, a 64-year-old housewife who was travelling in the bus from Parry's Corner to Vadapalani, was admitted to the Royapettah Government Hospital with a fractured pelvic bone and head injuries.

"I was sitting in the last seat when suddenly the bus rammed into the ledge of the flyover and went hurtling down. Before I realised what was happening, I was trapped under the bus and everyone was screaming for help," she recalled.

Some passengers claimed that the accident could have been averted if the driver had been more careful.

"The driver did not slow down despite seeing the curve and went headlong into the parapet. I suffered injuries on my shoulder when other passengers fell on me," said M.V. Rajan (75), a social worker.

Dr Gunasekaran, director of Royapettah General Hospital, clarified that all the patients were stable.
"As most of the patients had multiple soft tissue injuries they were given first aid, observed and discharged as they were stable," stated a statement from Apollo hospitals.

Cops fail to give medical care for driver

Driver of the ill-fated bus, Mr Prasad, was whisked away from the accident spot and kept at the Pondy Bazar traffic investigation department on Wednesday without any treatment for over four hours.

Learning about this, MTC staff thronged the police station and demanded that the injured driver be provided immediate medical treatment. He was finally taken away by union members and admitted to a hospital in Nungambakkam.

Mr Prasad, who has put in 20 years of service, is learnt to have told the police that the accident took place because his seat suddenly broke. The police has registered a case against him for rash and careless driving.

Earlier in the afternoon, the police took him to the Soundarapandianar police station in order to “protect” him from media attention.

After making enquiries, around 50 union members headed by Mr Natarajan, general secretary of the DMK-backed LPF, tracked down Mr Prasad and had a verbal altercation with the police seeking medical help for the injured driver. They asked the cops how an injured person was kept for four hours in the station without treatment.

Meanwhile, the union leaders also blamed poor maintenance of MTC buses for the accident.
“It has become a trend to accuse drivers of speaking on mobile phones.

The driver was given the bus that met with the accident after the bus that had earlier been allotted to him broke down,” Mr Natarajan told this newspaper.

A relative of Mr Prasad who was not allowed to meet him said that Mr Prasad was not a frequent cellphone user. “Knowing him well, we can’t believe that he would have used a mobile phone while driving,” he said.

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