All the passengers and the driver, save for one person, were killed when a bus traveling on a mountain road in India on Saturday skidded and plunged 500 feet.
Officials said 34 students and staff members were headed to Mahabaleshwar for a picnic when the bus skidded off the road in Ambenali Ghat in the Raigad District around 12:30 p.m. Anil Paraskar, superintendent of police of Raigad District of Maharashtra, told the Daily Star.
Thirty-three people were killed while one survived. All the passengers and the driver were part of Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth, an agriculture university.
We have confirmed 33 deaths and only one person managed to survive the bus crash. Our team is trying to recover the bodies,” National Disaster Response Force Commandant Anupam Srivastava told AFP, reported NDTV.
Prakash Sawant-Desai, the lone survivor from the bus, told the Times of India that the driver of the bus turned back to talk with passengers and lost control of the vehicle.
A picture published by the outlet shows the group, all men, posing in front of the bus before the journey.
Desai was thrown out of the bus from a window at some point during the plunge and became stuck in the branches of a tree. After about 30 minutes, he recovered and climbed down from the tree and made it to the road to alert a passerby, who alerted the authorities.
— Times of India (@timesofindia) July 28, 2018
Pained by the loss of lives due to a bus accident in Maharashtra's Raigad district. My condolences to those who lost their loved ones: PM @narendramodi
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) July 28, 2018
“All the passengers were traveling and chitchatting with each other,” said Desai. “The driver turned back to [respond] to a joke of one of the passengers for a second and before we could understand anything, the bus fell in the gorge. I was thrown outside the bus.”
The stretch of highway where the accident happened had received heavy rain for the past few days, reported NDTV.
A number of area workers as well as doctors and rescue personnel rushed to the scene and were working to access the bus, deep in the gorge. Officials told The Indian Express that 25 bodies have been recovered as of 4 p.m.
Further recovery appears difficult because some appear ready to fall deeper into the gorge while others are crushed under the bus.
Officials said 40 people were originally scheduled to partake in the trip but the number was reduced due to the capacity of the bus.
According to The Associated Press, India has the world’s deadliest roads, with more than 110,000 people killed annually. Reckless driving, poorly maintained roads, and aging vehicles, are the most cited reasons for crashes.