One of my close friends, Santosh called me yesterday and narrated his recent experience traveling in a KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation) Airavatha Volvo bus, from Bengaluru to Hubli. Due to negligent driving the bus met up with an accident at around 4 AM, some 10 kms before Haveri (A district HQ in Karnataka). Luckily there were no causalities though many suffered minor injuries. Santosh works for a leading Engineering services company and his work involves extensive travel, visiting factories all over and supervising installation activities.He usually doesn’t get sleep during night journeys and stays awake. He asked me to write a post on his close to death experience, so that it reaches larger mass and hopefully some KSRTC officials.
Here goes his narration of incidents that unfolded before and after the accident.
I boarded Bengaluru-Belgaum (via Hubli) KSRTC Volvo Airavatha at Majestic on Monday evening, (ticket no 15049073 PNR No: j145768064, seat no 24, Total fare Rs 511). Bus left from Bangalore at around 10.15PM, 15 minutes beyond schedule. A Vishnuvardhan starer Kannada movie, Bandhana was played at a disturbingly loud voice. Volume was toned down after repeated complaints and requests from passengers.
At around 1PM, the movie ended, conductor went to sleep in one of the front two seats that were empty. On a highway near Davanagere, driver was driving on the wrong side of the road, in a rather rash and unprofessional manner, with abrupt breakings and swings and nearly missed hitting a truck coming from opposite direction. After getting heavy scolding from the truck driver he carried on, without any improvements in his driving style. Again driving on the wrong side, he created a traffic jam and was forced to drive back couple of kms and make way for traffic. At Davangere he stopped for just 10-15 seconds, only to offload some cylinder like stuff he was carrying with him. No stops for tea or to attend nature’s calls.
4 AM in the morning, driving towards Haveri, probably 8-10kms before Haveri town, on an almost deserted nice 4 lane double road, our bus was cruising at about 80-100 kmph speed. With driver’s passion for driving on the wrong side notwithstanding, he missed noticing a diesel tanker on the road. The diesel tanker had fallen off road into a pit, with its rear part protruding on the road. Noticing it too late, our Volvo ended up ramming into the protruding rear part of the tanker, jolting all sleeping passengers.
It took several minutes for everyone to wake up and understand what’s happening. Due to the impact of collision, driver’s seat was pushed back by a meter or two, into the passenger section. His leg was jammed and he was screaming for help. We tried to remove him but we couldn’t. Of the 40+ passengers on board, some 25+ suffered minor to medium injuries, but fortunately there wasn’t any death.
We shouted for help and other buses stopped seeing the accident. They tried to break open the glass windows, but fiber windows were tough to crack. Finally people were evacuated through the front portion of the bus, which was severely crushed due to the impact.
We called the emergency number 12666 written on the bus for help. For long, no one received it. Finally, by about 4.20 some lady picked up the phone. As we briefed her about the accident and asked for help, she started interrogating us instead, asking our name, address, from where we were calling. She was not in a position to do anything other than listening.
As I came out, I had nothing else with me. My wallet, office laptop, cloths all were inside. I went inside searching for it, saw that all baggage had fallen off the racks on the passage and people were carelessly walking all over it, searching for their belongings while damaging others’. With some struggle I found my belongings and sighed in relief.
Most of the passengers were regular office goers who had to be in their office same day. No one had the time and patience to stay back and say either claim a compensation or assist police and other officials. Everyone left towards their destination hopping on to other buses or whatever mode of transportation they got. The conductor was in a shocked state and no one bothered him. I got on to a private bus and reached my Hotel in Hubli in one piece.
- The driver wasn’t drunk. He was aged about 35. He was wearing his uniform. May be he wasn’t trained properly or he had some unknown reasons to drive badly
- We don’t know if the diesel tanker into which our bus rammed was loaded. Since Volvo had rear engine nothing catastrophic happened, else collision into a loaded fuel tanker with a front engine bus could have resulted in an explosion.
- Conductor could have given company to driver and ensure that he stays awake and drives properly. Instead he enjoyed the movie and slept off. Most of the private buses will have two drivers, which is not a case with KSRTC
- No pit stops or breaks were given all the way.
- Bus as such was in a bad condition, with torn seats and smell. Every year KSRTC buys 1000s of new buses (and concerned officials and ministers pocket huge commission). Their attention to maintaining existing fleet is near zero.
- Those manning emergency response numbers must be trained and prepared to handle emergencies like this
- One of my co passengers was a Chief General Manager at NABARD. He was a first time KSRTC traveler and is thoroughly disappointed with his experience and has sworn not to travel KSRTC again.
- Due to various reasons,people seldom complain/follow up after incidents like this as they’ll have their life to carry on with. I’ll be giving a written complaint to KSRTC on this within a few days, though I’m not optimistic on any action.
- As there was no death, media and others weren’t interested in this accident. But coming so close to death was a horrifying experience. I hope incidents like this doesn’t repeat.
- Weren't the Volvos supposed to have airbags for the driver? We didn't see any going off.
Narrated over phone by Santosh, composed by Shrinidhi