19 killed in three major road accidents within 24 hoursExperts say poor roads, unfit vehicles and reckless driving are major causes of crashes.
At least 19 people died and more than 30 others were injured, some critically, in three separate road accidents in the country within 24 hours.
Twelve people, including a woman, died and 24 others were injured in a bus accident at Bhalubang Bazaar in Dang district on Friday night. At around 10:30 pm, the passenger bus en route to Kathmandu from Nepalgunj in Banke district swerved off the Rapti bridge and plunged into the river bank along the East-West Highway.
Five passengers died in the course of treatment while the bodies of seven others were recovered from the accident site, said police. Deputy Superintendent Janak Bahadur Malla, also spokesperson for the District Police Office, said the identities of all the deceased had been established.
The deceased have been identified as Kusum Basnet, 60, of Nepalgunj in Banke; Saurabh Bista, 39, of Hetauda in Makwanpur; Tara Kanta Pandey, 65, of Chandragiri in Kathmandu; Mun Bahadur Rawat, 40, of Jumla; Rambaran Harichand, 30, of Banke; and Deepak Kami, 25, of Rukum. The other deceased were Sanjay KC, 25, of Khajura in Banke; Arpan Thapa, 28, of Kohalpur in Banke; and Anil Khadka, 35, of Bharatpur in Chitwan.
Three Indian nationals—Mune, 31, of Uttar Pradesh; Yogendra Ram Jogendra, 67, of Bihar; and Chetram Silpakar, 45, of Uttar Pradesh—are also among the victims, police said.
Pandey was a critic, leftist intellectual and adviser in the Mohan Baidya-led CPN (Revolutionary Maoist). He was returning to Kathmandu after attending the party’s schooling programme in Kailali district. Professor Pandey published several books on literary criticism.
Preliminary police investigation has blamed speeding for the crash. There is a traffic police post near the bridge that connects Bhalubang of Dang to Shitganga of Arghakhanchi district.
“The traffic police post does not keep entry records of the passing vehicles. But almost all the vehicles stop at the post before moving forward. The bus did not stop at the post on Friday night,” said Inspector Kiran Prakash Malla, chief at the District Traffic Police Office, Dang.
Driver Lal Bahadur Nepali claimed that the accident occurred as a leaf spring bar broke. “The driver said he could not control the vehicle after the bar broke. But it seems that the accident happened due to reckless driving. Technical test of the vehicle is yet to be conducted. Detailed investigation into the accident is underway,” said Superintendent of Police Ram Bahadur KC.
Fourteen of the injured were rushed to Nepalgunj Medical Teaching Hospital in Kohalpur for treatment. Three of them returned home after treatment. Nine of the injured were taken to Butwal while one is receiving treatment at a health institution in Bhalubang.
Twenty-five-year-old Mohammad Jabed Ali Darji of Duduwa Rural Municipality-1 in Banke district survived the accident. He was due to fly to Qatar for a job on Sunday.
“I was going to Kathmandu to fly to Qatar. I luckily survived the accident but I will certainly miss the flight,” said Darji from the hospital bed in Kohalpur. He sustained injuries in his legs and head.
“We took out a loan of Rs250,000 from relatives and neighbours expecting that he [Darji] would earn money in Qatar. But he could not go. Yet he survived the accident, which is huge in itself,” said Darji’s father Salauddin.
Darji told the Post that he had not noticed anything wrong until it was too late. “I only knew about the incident when the bus started falling off the bridge. I thought I would die. I escaped the jaws of death,” he said.
Separately in Kathmandu, five people were killed in a road accident near Setopahara along the Thankot-Chitlang road section in Chandragiri Municipality-4 on Saturday. Four died on the spot while a child succumbed to injuries at Bayodha Hospital in Balkhu, said police.
The accident happened after a car, travelling from Thankot to Chitlang, skidded off the road and fell some 600 metres, said Deputy Superintendent Narayan Adhikari of Metro Police Circle, Thankot. According to him, the vehicle moved backwards on the steep road and plunged.
The victims have been identified as Omkar Tiwari, 67; his wife Kalpana Tiwari, 64, of Maitidevi; their son-in-law Dr Mahesh Kumar Gautam; and his children Smarika Gautam, 6, and Shriyansh Gautam, 4.
Srishti Tiwari Gautam, Mahesh’s wife, survived the crash by jumping off the vehicle.
Police suspect that the victims were travelling to Chitlang, a tourist destination in the district of Makwanpur, for a weekend getaway.
In Baglung, at least two people died and nine others were injured, some seriously, in a road accident on Saturday. The accident occurred after a jeep, travelling to Dhorpatan from Burtibang, overturned in Pyangkhola of Dhorpatan Municipality early on Saturday.
According to Police Inspector Deepak Babu KC, jeep driver Tilak Gharti of Dhorpatan-4 and Sangita Adhikari of Chandragiri Municipality in Kathmandu were killed in the accident. According to the District Police Office in Baglung, three critically injured passengers were medevaced to Manipal Teaching Hospital in Pokhara while others are being treated at the Burtibang-based Primary Health Centre.
All people on board the vehicle are locals of Chandragiri Municipality of Kathmandu, who went to Dhorpatan of Baglung on a tour. Preliminary police investigation blames brake failure for the crash.
Experts say multiple factors are responsible for recurring fatal road crashes in the country.
Transport and traffic engineer Ashish Gajurel said poor road infrastructure, unfit condition of vehicles and reckless driving are the major causes of such incidents.
“There is a dangerous trend of building roads without following basic engineering criteria right across the country,” Gajurel, executive director at the Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board, told the Post. “When old and unfit vehicles ply such dangerously built roads, accidents are bound to happen.”
Drink driving and driving without licence are other problems identified by police in their investigations, which are widespread mainly in rural parts of the country where monitoring is lax.
Gajurel said that building safety barriers along the edge of roads could save many lives. “Such barriers can prevent accidents. Even if there are accidents, they cut down on the number of casualties,” he said.
Given the recurring accidents and the magnitude of the problem, he stressed the need for a dedicated road safety council.
(Pratap Bista in Hetauda and Prakash Baral in Baglung contributed reporting.)