MUZAFFARABAD: Seven members of a family were killed when the vehicle they were travelling in fell hundreds of feet down the road onto the bank of River Neelum near here on Sunday, police said.
The ill-fated vehicle, a five-door jeep, was on its way to Muzaffarabad from Neelum valley when it met with the tragedy near a spot known as Ratra at about 12 noon for reasons yet to be ascertained, said Station House Officer (SHO) of Punjgran Syed Wajahat Kazmi.
The portion of the Neelum valley road from where the vehicle plunged was straight and quite wide, he said, adding that no skid marks had been spotted on the road either.
“It is assumed either the man at the wheel dozed off or the steering wheel got locked up, but exact reason will come to fore only after the examination of the vehicle,” he said.
SHO Kazmi that said after hitting the riverbank around 2,000 feet down the road the vehicle was completely smashed.
“When the rescuers managed to reach the spot where the wreckage was lying after a great amount of effort, they saw all the seven people died,” he said.
The rescuers manually carried the bodies around half a kilometre downstream along the riverbank and then to an alternative road across the river through a suspension bridge. From there, the bodies were transported to Basic Health Unit in Patikka in ambulances and other vehicles.
The process consumed almost two hours, the SHO said.
Patikka is some 18 kilometres away from Muzaffarabad and Ratra is another three kilometres ahead of it.
AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider was also in the Punjgran area to offer condolences to the family of a deceased friend of his. On his way back, around 30 minutes after the accident, he stopped at Ratra and monitored the rescue operation from the top for some time.
Mr Haider expressed sorrow over the loss of lives and directed the officials to try their best to ascertain the exact cause of the accident so that strict precautionary measures could be enforced to arrest similar incidents in future.
The deceased have been identified as Zojan Begum, 80, her sons Raja Waqar Ali Khan, 50, (a schoolteacher) and Raja Sadaqat Ali Khan, 45, (a forester), her grandson Raja Talha, son of Sadaqat Ali Khan, her married daughter Shabnam Nisa, 45, wife of Naseer Kazmi, granddaughter Sana Naseer, 20, and another grandson Karamat Hussain, 28, son of Nazir Ahmed Shah.
They had gone to their native Upper Neelum village, link road to which stems from famous tourist resort of Karen, and were returning to their rented accommodation in Chehla Bandi neighbourhood of Muzaffarabad.
Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2019