Several factors, some out of human control, some a result of officials trying to show successful management, as well as a consequence of ill-planned or ill-advised actions over a period of time, appear to have contributed to the high toll in the Kondagattu bus accident.

In the first place, the TSRTC was not even supposed to be plying any service to the temple that used the ghat section of the road. It was way back in 2013 that the then District Collector banned all heavy vehicles on this section of the road – between Kondagattu temple and Kondagattu village – connecting the National Highway 563 in the section falling between Jagitial and Karimnagar towns.

Despite the ban being in place, it is learnt that the Jagitial TSRTC bus depot manager Hanumantha Rao, just 10 days ago, approved the running of bus service to the temple using the ghat road, once every four hours. This change was apparently made to improve occupancy ratio of the depot’s bus services. With the Sri Anjaneya Swamy Temple being a big draw for pilgrims, both from nearby villages and also from other areas, the RTC officials believed that they can ride high on increased occupancy ratios as well as improved revenues.

Though Tuesday is considered auspicious for visiting the temple, there is no explanation so far as to why the RTC let as many as 88 people pack themselves into a vehicle that was designed to carry only 40 passengers. Incidentally, though the bus is believed to have had a fitness certificate till October 4 this year, it was a 15-year-old vehicle.

As the bus went off the road and rolled down to a depth of about 30 feet, it repeatedly landed on large rocks. In addition, the crushing of passengers, and the structure of the bus itself with the metal rods on the seats and elsewhere in the vehicle, contributed to the high toll. Some of the locals at the accident site complained that over the years, the sides of the road that formed the valley into which the bus fell, were illegally mined for soil leaving behind rocky outcrops.

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Previously, heavy vehicles were banned on this road owing to potential dangers and the unsuitability of the road for use by heavy vehicles. The ghat road section itself was found not meeting the standards laid down by the Roads & Buildings Department. A report to this effect was also sent to the government for construction of safety rails on either side of the road. Several people who rushed to the spot to take part in the rescue, blamed the authorities for not taking action on improving safety measures on this road.

The ghat road also did not have any signs indicating curves or other changes in its topography.

Medical teams rushed from city
With the magnitude of the Kondagattu accident becoming evident and the Jagitial Government Hospital getting overwhelmed by the number of victims, the government rushed three medical teams from the Hyderabad city to assist the local medical staff.

The teams comprised doctors specialising in orthopaedics, neurology and general surgery. Health Minister Dr C Laxma Reddy also said that eight of the injured were brought to the city and were admitted to NIMS, OGH and Gandhi Hospital.

Adequate number of 108 ambulances were also kept on standby to ensure that the injured are transported to the city at short notice if required.

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Driver had received award
Srinivas, the 53-year-old bus driver was one of the skilful drivers who worked with Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) and in fact, received best driver award from the corporation on the occasion of Independence Day on August 15.

However, on Tuesday, his driving skills apparently failed with the ill-fated bus from Jagityal depot to Kondagattu. He, along with over 50 passengers travelling in the bus, died in the accident.

A senior official with RTC said Srinivas was working with TSRTC for the last three decades. “He was efficient driver and regular to his duties and had not caused a single accident in his entire career,” he said.

Heart-wrenching scenes at Jagitial hospital
A pall of gloom descended on the Jagtial government hospital where family members and relatives of the Kondagattu accident victims arrived to see their kins’ bodies. The bodies were handed over to family members after autopsy.

Heart-wrenching scenes were witnessed at the hospital as families broke down at the sight of the bodies being brought out to be handed over to them. Among the dead were four members of Bogani Madhunaiah family. Charan, Bhumakka, Narayana and their relative Rajeshwari died in the accident, and all of them hailed from Rampalli village in Peddapalli mandal.

Their relative, Bogani Purushotham, who escaped unhurt in the accident, said that it was a miraculous escape for him and some others. The entire episode lasted for just a few minutes but left 54 dead. Heaps of bodies were piled up in the bus when he managed to get out, and he himself was in a state of shock.

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While some people died due to injuries suffered by the steel parts of the bus hitting them, other breathed their last due to suffocation. Most of the passengers who sat in the front rows and were standing died when the packed bus overturned and fell in the valley. Passengers who were standing fell on other passengers on the front rows when the driver applied sudden break at a speed-breaker, he said.

Route change cost 35 from 3 villages their lives
Of the 54 victims of the Kondagattu bus accident, as many as 35 belonged to just three villages – Timmaipalli, Shanivarampeta and Kodimyal of Jagitial district.

People from these three villages were dependent on either private autorickshaws or other private vehicles to go to the temple. Their other option was to catch the TSRTC bus that plied between Jagitial town, the district headquarters, and Shanivarampeta village via Kondagattu.

According to the Kodimyal single-window chairman Krishna Rao: “35 of the victims were from these three villages. Most of the people from this area are dependent on RTC services to reach the temple and go to the district headquarters.”

“The bus is not even supposed to ply on this route but the RTC authorities who wanted to increase revenues and show better occupancy ratios, recently introduced this service. The sanctioned route for the service goes via Nachupalli and Dongalamarri and not via the Kondagattu temple,” he said.

Krishna Rao blamed the RTC authorities for changing the route that on Tuesday ended with disaster for more than 50 families. “It is only because of the unauthorised route change that 35 families from three villages have been destroyed forever,” he said. #KhabarLive