37 tourists killed in Maharashtra bus accident

Ratnagiri (Maharashtra), March 19 (IANS) At least 37 people were killed and 15 others injured, including five foreign nationals, when a bus plunged into a river in Khed area Tuesday on the Mumbai-Goa highway near here, officials said. The bus driver was arrested.

Among the victims are at least five foreign nationals but authorities could not confirm whether they were killed or injured in the accident.
The accident took place around 3.50 a.m. when the Goa-Mumbai bus belonging to Mahakali Travels suddenly went out of control on the Bharna bridge over Jagbudi river and crashed into the river, 190 km from Maharashtra capital Mumbai, said B.L. Shinde, an official from the highway department.
“So far, 37 bodies have been removed from the site and there are some more injured passengers, including five whose condition is serious,” Shinde told IANS.
The injured, among them the bus driver, have been taken to hospitals in Khed and Chiplun and some of the critical victims have been removed to Mumbai.
The driver, who was questioned after the treatment, was arrested and slapped with several charges related to rash and negligent driving resulting in death of the tourists, the official said.
Police are investigating if he was drunk at the time of the accident.
According to preliminary and eye-witness reports, the accident occurred when the ill-fated bus was attempting to overtake another vehicle, though the exact cause has yet to be determined.
This is considered among the worst accidents on the treacherous Mumbai-Goa highway. Traffic movement has been completely stalled on the highway after the accident.
Home Minister R.R. Patil Monday informed the Maharashtra assembly that 828 people have been killed and 2,411 seriously injured in road accidents on the Mumbai-Goa highway in the past three years.
Seven highway police help centres are responsible for manning traffic on this highway and the need to increase the number of such centres would be examined, Patil said.
Following persistent demands by locals and tourists alike, the work on the four-laning of the highway is currently underway.