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MANSEHRA/GILGIT, March 16: Twenty-three soldiers and two civilians were killed when a coaster plunged into the Indus River off the Karakoram Highway in Kohistan district on Saturday morning. A colonel was among the dead, police said.

The incident occurred in Summer Nula area of Dassu Tehsil.

Sources said that the driver of the privately owned vehicle lost control over the steering wheel at a sharp turn, sending the vehicle hurtling down into the river.

An ISPR press release confirmed the death of 23 Army personnel in the accident. It said 25 soldiers and two civilians (the driver and the conductor) were in the coaster.

A military spokesman said all soldiers killed in the incident were from a battalion of the Northern Light Infantry (NLI). They hailed from Gilgit-Baltistan and were going on leave from Swat to Gilgit.

The Deputy Commissioner of Kohistan, Aqal Badshah, put the death toll at 24 — 21 soldiers and three civilians.

He told media personnel that bodies were being pulled out from the river and airlifted to Gilgit. The injured were first taken to Shitial civil hospital and later airlifted to Gilgit.

The deputy commissioner identified the slain colonel as Sadiq Ikram, two drivers as Aman Ahmad and Mohammad Umer, and the conductor as Fazal Rabbi.