FAISALABAD/ISLAMABAD: The ill-fated bus which met with an accident near Kallar Kahar leaving at least 31 students and four adults dead, had no permit for the Islamabad route.And the Motorway Police, always praised for its efficiency, failed to check the heavily overloaded vehicle carrying students of the Millat Grammar School, Faisalabad, for a picnic in the Salt range.
The bus veered off the road and fell into a ravine when its brakes failed. The 1981 model bus was reconditioned in 2002 and registered with the Excise and Taxation Department.
Secretary of Regional Transport Authority Mohsin Rashid said the vehicle examination authority had issued in June this year a road-worthiness certificate to the bus and it was valid till Dec 29, 2011. The bus did not have a permit for the route which was mandatory for all vehicles plying on the Motorway.
He said the vehicle had a capacity for 57 people, but it was carrying 108 children, teachers and others.
Sources said the bus came to the Motorway through the Deputywala interchange at about 6:30pm and no Motorway official bothered to take notice of the overloading or to check its documents.
The grief-stricken city of Faisalabad closed on Monday in mourning as bodies of children arrived and funeral were held.
The district administration had announced a local holiday to enable people to attend the funeral and help the injured. Moving scenes were witnessed when parents and relatives of the dead children received the bodies.
More than two dozen injured students were brought to the Allied Hospital where a special ward had been set up.
Asad Ali, a class six student admitted to the Allied Hospital, told Dawn that the bus carried 110 boys and teachers. He said the school administration had charged each student Rs800 for the visit.
According to him, the school management had said that two buses had been arranged for the visit, but on Monday morning the students were surprised to find that there was only one decades-old bus and they had to board it.
While returning, he said the driver informed the teachers that vehicle’s brakes had failed.
“The information spread panic and one teacher jumped out the bus. Most of the students were looking at the teacher who was lying on the road when the bus overturned.”
City Police Officer Rai Tahir claimed that arrangements had been made to facilitate the affected families and a special cell had been set up near the school where most of the families had gathered to get information about their loved-ones.
At night, infuriated people hurled stones at district government officials and some local parliamentarians who were at the school.
The bodies of a number of students were buried in local graveyards.
Our correspondent in Toba Tek Singh adds: A class seven student was laid to rest here in his native village of Chak 315 GB on Tuesday.
A large number of people attended the funeral of Osama Shehzad and teacher Tajammal Hussain who was from Chak 408 JB.
In Islamabad, Minister for Communications Dr Arbab Alamgir Khan constituted a three-member inquiry committee to investigate the cause of the accident.
The inquiry committee is headed by Dr Muhammad Shafique, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Motorways, and includes Shaid Yar Khan, DIG Training and Evaluation, and Muhammad Ali Khan, Assistant Inspector General.
The committee has been asked to submit its report to the minister within five days.
Talking to Dawn, a Motorway police spokesman asserted that the bus had entered the main route from a small interchange where vehicles were not checked because staff were deployed at main interchanges.
The spokesman also claimed that a Motorway photographer had stopped the bus at Kallar Kahar, but allowed it to proceed at the insistence of the schoolchildren. He said the official had been suspended. Even at the Salt Range where the accident occurred, he claimed a Motorway official had signalled the vehicle to stop but it soon overturned.