A dangerous shortcut and an overcrowded bus were among the many factors that seem to have led to the tragic accident that killed 57 people in Telangana. The bus fell off the Kondagattu Ghat Road while returning from the Anjaneya Swamy temple atop Kondagattu Hills, 190 km from the state capital, Hyderabad.
T Krishna Prasad, the DGP and Chairman of the Road Safety Authority, Telangana, who visited the spot and conducted a preliminary investigation, told TNM that multiple accidents have taken place on the ghat road.
"It is a 2 km long ghat road. There were three locations where accidents have taken place in the past two decades, involving deaths. The smallest accident saw 3 casualties and barring the present event, the biggest one resulted in around 14 casualties."
"The incident happens to be a combination of different factors. The first one was overloading, as the bus had more than 86 passengers, while its capacity was only 60. The road itself was not safe in the sense that the gradient is too high, particularly for a heavy vehicle that was coming down," he added.
The official also said that most of the accidents that had taken place on the ghat road occurred when the vehicles were coming down.
"There are sharp covers and ditches in 5 to 6 places. There is another road which is about 10 km longer, but people take this road as a shortcut," Prasad said.
"In fact, the local authorities had put height restricting barricades to discourage RTC buses and trucks from travelling on this particular road, but maybe due to local demand and public pressure, it was removed a few years ago," he added.
When asked if the accident was a result of a brake failure, as it was being speculated, the senior IPS officer said that it was pending investigation.
"Eyewitnesses said that the driver appeared to be struggling with the brake right before the accident. Unfortunately, even though the accident took place, the driver has saved many lives as he dodged an auto and some people crossing the road," Prasad said.
"When we look at the accident spot as well, it was around 150 metres from when he first lost control. You generally don't require so much space to bring your vehicle under control, if it is functioning well," he added.
When asked about the future course of action, Prasad said, "We have instituted a crash resolution team consisting of officials from all departments including Police, Revenue, Transport, RTC and Roads and Buildings (R&B). All of them will now sit and work out what happened and how it could have been prevented."
"A short-term plan and long-term plan will be in drafted and the former will come into immediate effect. The short-term plan will include construction of barricades, signage, counselling of all drivers, seizing of vehicles which are unfit and other such measures," he said.
Meanwhile, the state government suspended an official of the state road transport corporation and ordered an inquiry.
Expressing shock over the accident, Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao announced Rs 5 lakh and the TSRTC announced Rs 3 lakh as ex-gratia for the families of the deceased.