In a pre-dawn tragedy, at least 12 youths, including five minors, were killed while 28 others injured when a private bus plunged into a gorge on Mumbai-Pune Highway on Saturday, officials said here.
President Draupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Governor Ramesh Bais, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and others mourned the tragedy and expressed condolences to the victims and their families.
The Prime Minister has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the kin of each deceased victim, and Rs 50,000 for those injured, while Shinde has said that an ex-gratia of Rs 5,00,000 will be given to the families of the deceased and full treatment expenses of the injured shall be borne by the state government.
Khopoli Police Inspector Shirish K. Pawar said that the accident occurred around 4 a.m. on the Pune-Mumbai arm of the old highway and the bus reportedly fell into the ravine at least 50 meters below, near the treacherous Borghat section.
"From preliminary investigations, it appears that the driver may have lost control on one of the steep turns on the highway, but our priority is rescue work," said Pawar.
At that early hour, there was limited traffic on the highway but some people managed to rush to the accident spot, summoned the Raigad Police, Fire Brigade, some workers from a nearby construction project and a local trekkers' group for help.
A massive rescue operation was immediately launched with ropes and climbers went down to help the victims, numbering around 40-45 including the bus driver, locals said.
According to Pawar and the district authorities, around 12 youngsters have died in the accident and the number of fatalities could go up.
The injured were rushed to Khopoli Civil Hospital, Jakhotia Hospital, and MGM Hospital in Navi Mumbai for treatment, and the condition of some is reported to be serious.
A police official said that a majority of the passengers were members of the Baji Prabhu Music Group, Goregaon, and comprised five minors and other youngsters in their teens or twenties, who were returning home after performing at a programme in Pune on Friday.
The deceased include Jui D. Sawant (18), Kritik Lohit (16), Rahul Gothan (17) (all from Goregaon); Abhay V. Sable (20) and Vaibhavi Sabale (15) of Malad; Harshada Pardeshi (19) of Mahim; Satish S. Dhumal (25), Swapnil S. Dhumal (15), Yash S. Yadav (20), Manish Rathod (25), Veer K. Mandavkar (6), and one person whose identity is yet to be ascertained.
Meanwhile, scores of grieving parents and relatives of deceased and injured victims rushed from different parts of Mumbai to the accident spot and the hospitals in Raigad and Navi Mumbai.
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