Panaji, Feb 18: Four children were among six persons killed today when a school bus plunged into a river in Aldona village near here.
Bodies of Priyal Salgaoncar (10), Diana Dias (8), Elvina Dias (11) and Nigel Gracias (10) along with Josephine Dias (58) and Dayanand Hoble (55) were fished out from Kalvi river, Deputy Inspector General of Police Ravindra Yadav said, adding the mishap ccurred at 12.20 PM when the bus of St Thomas Girls High School from Aldona was taking the children home.
The driver and conductor escaped unhurt as they jumped out from the vehicle which fell into the river next to a wharf, 15 km from here, while all of its other occupants got trapped and drowned, police said.
Police have arrested the bus driver and owner Rajesh Naik on charges of culpable homicide.
“Naik in his preliminary statement has claimed that brakes of the bus failed resulting in the mishap,” Yadav said.
The state government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident.
Search is on for body of another woman who was in the bus at the time of the mishap, he said.
The rescue teams of local police, Marine police, Indian Navy and Indian Coast guard were rushed to the spot immediately after the accident.
The bus was pulled out of water almost one-and-a-half hours after the incident using a mechanical crane, Yadav said. Indian Navy had pressed three Chetak helicopters and a team of 10 divers to the spot, while locals have also joined in the rescue operation.
Initial reports had claimed that the death toll was eight but subsequently police officials revised it to six.
After the rescue operation started, three bodies, including those of two girls, were fished out of the river, Yadav said, adding they found two more bodies trapped inside the bus when it was retrieved while body of another girl was later traced into water.
Meanwhile, a pall of gloom coupled descended on Aldona village as the locals alleged delay in launching rescue operations by the agencies.
Clarifying the police’s stand, Yadav said since the incident took place in interiors, it took almost 20 minutes from the town of Mapusa for the rescue machinery to reach the spot.
Meanwhile, a mob chased away local MLA Dayanand Narvekar, who had gone to the site, accusing him of failing to fulfill their long pending demand of constructing a bridge over the river.
Chief Secretary Sanjay Srivastava also had to face a barrage of questions from the villagers who grilled him over failure of disaster management teams to act in time in such emergency situation.
Yadav said the rescue operation, which was called off after sunset, will resume tomorrow as body of a female occupant of the bus remains untraceable.
In view of the tragedy, the state government called off the quintessential Carnival 2012 parade to be held in Panaji and is taking a call on similar performances to be held in other cities in coming days.