Kerala RTC accident: How swapping seats saved two lives but took two others

While 6-year-old Alan and his mother escaped death by inches, the child's 64-year-old grandmother did not survive Thursday's bus accident that killed 19 people.
Kerala RTC accident: How swapping seats saved two lives but took two others
Kerala RTC accident: How swapping seats saved two lives but took two others
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On Friday morning, 6-year-old Alan sits on his uncle's lap, busy playing games with his little cousins at his grandmother's residence in Palakkad, vaguely registering that his relatives had gathered at his grandmother's house to say goodbye to her. His Achamma, 64-year-old Rosalie, who had devoted her life to her grandchildren, was among the 19 people killed in Thursday's bus accident when a container lorry collided with a Kerala RTC bus on Avinashi road in Tiruppur, Tamil Nadu.

But the 6-year-old is years away from realising the enormity of Thursday's accident, and more importantly, how sheer luck saved him and his mother from certain death.

A few kilometres away from the funeral in Chandranagar colony,  at the Palana Institute of Medical Sciences in Palakkad town, Alan's mother Sona slowly recovers from the head and back injuries she sustained in the injuries. It was Sona, Alan and Rosalie, who were onboard the Volvo Kerala RTC bus, the right side of which was mangled beyond recognition after the collision at 3.15 a.m. on Thursday. Sona, who is a nurse by profession, had travelled to Bengaluru with her son and mother-in-law on Monday, to take a nursing exam. She took the exam to apply for jobs in Saudi Arabia, where her husband and Alan's father works. 

On the night of Wednesday, February 19, the three of them boarded the bus to return home, and sat themselves down on seats 15 and 16, on the right side of the bus. The next few hours saw fate playing a cruel joke — one that saved Alan and Sona from being crushed to death, but killed 19 others on the bus.

At 12:45 am, two-and-a-half hours before the collision at Tiruppur, the Sona and Alan were suddenly asked to get up from their seat and move to the left side of the bus.

"Alan had caught a cold and had a slight runny nose and chest congestion. Seeing that Sona and the child were on the window seat, the bus conductor Baiju asked them to move to an aisle seat on the left side. Their seats, 16 and 17, were given to Ragesh, a Palakkad native, and Jismon Shaju from Alappuzha — both of whom were killed in the collision shortly after," Lipson, a relative of Rosalie's tells TNM. 

When Sona woke up from the jolt and the screams, she frantically searched for Rosalie, but could not find her. Almost all of the seats on the right side of the bus, including Sona's, Rosalie's and the driver's, were crushed beyond recognition. The two people with whom they had switched their seats had also died.

Rosalie - Alan's grandmother and Sona's mother-in-law

Rosalie, who chose to remain in seat number 15, did not survive the crash. Nor did Baiju, the conductor who unknowingly saved two lives with his suggestion. Ragesh and Jismon, whose bodies were recovered from the wreckage, were sent to their grieving relatives in Palakkad and Alappuzha after an autopsy was performed in the Tiruppur General Hospital in Tamil Nadu. These passengers were among the 19 people who lost their lives in the fatal accident. 

As for Sona, she is yet to come to terms with her sheer luck and the magnitude of the accident, relatives tell TNM.

"So many nice people unknowingly came together to save Sona and Alan's lives. But for us who survived the accident and their families, none of us will ever be the same people again. This accident has altered our lives forever," Lipson added.

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