Flames and smoke billow after a bus caught fire in Buldhana on July 1, 2023. Photo Credit: ANI
In the blink of an eye, the lives of the passengers of the Pune-bound Vidarbha Travels sleeper coach bus that caught fire in Maharashtra’s Buldhana district on Saturday claimed 25 lives, including three children.
Survivors said that in the scorching temperatures and unsanitary conditions, only those who managed to break the glass windows with their hands could escape the burning vehicle, and there was no way for family members or co-passengers to help .
“Everything happened in one fell swoop. Before we could understand what was happening, the driver lost control, it overturned and caught fire. Everyone was shouting loudly for help, but the vehicles in front didn’t care to stop and save us. Some of us managed to escape by breaking the glass windows,” said a survivor.
More lives could have been saved if passing vehicles had stopped to render help, he said.
A private sleeper coach bus operated by Vidarbha Travels carrying 33 passengers was going from Nagpur to Pune when it met with an accident and caught fire at Pimpalkuta village near Sindkhed Raja in the early hours of Saturday.
“It is a sleeper AC bus and everyone was fast asleep after having dinner near Karanja in Yavatmal district. There was no escape as the bus overturned and crashed into the door. We were trapped inside, and had no chance to help others escape,” explained a terrified passenger after his miraculous escape.
Eight people managed to escape the flames, but the incident left an indelible mark on their lives.
Another survivor, Ayush Ghatge, said he was sleeping on the last seat when the accident happened, and woke up in shock when some people fell on him. “I immediately stood up and started looking for a window to get out. I started breaking a window and all three of us came out with each other’s help,” he said.
Witnesses said the anguished screams of the trapped passengers and thick smoke filled the air, creating an eerie symphony of desperation.
“Unfortunately, the passengers were trapped inside. We saw them burning alive, trying to break windows to escape, but we were in no position to render any help as the vehicle was engulfed in flames. Advocate Sandeep, who reached the spot to help the victims, said either the diesel tank or the supply pipe from the tank to the engine had burst, resulting in the bus catching fire.
He said accidents used to happen frequently on the highway in Pimpalkhuta and his group was always called to help. Mr. Sandeep said, “When we went there, we saw the terrible condition…the tires were split.”
Meanwhile, relatives of one of the victims, Avni Pohnekar, told a local news channel that she was a techie and was on her way to Pune to seek job opportunities. She was a resident of Wardha. Nikhil Pathe, another passenger from Yavatmal’s Gondadi village, was also on his way to Pune, Maharashtra’s IT capital, in search of a job.