Bus veers off Howrah rail bridge, 12 killed - Kolkata - Cities - The Times of India Bus veers off Howrah rail bridge, 12 killed 5 Jul 2009, 0403 hrs IST, TNN HOWRAH: "Vivekananda told me the steering had jammed. I saw the bus heading straight for the railing and leapt out on to the footpath. Seconds later, the bus' rear portion slammed into me from behind and hurled me across the railing. The last I remember is me falling through the air and the bus hurtling down after me." People try to rescue passengers after a bus fell off a flyover near the Howrah railway station. (PTI Photo) That was the chilling account of Md Firdaus, the helper of the ill-fated minibus that fell from Bankim Setu on the railway tracks at Howrah station on Saturday evening. The 35-foot drop left 12 dead and nine seriously injured. Firdaus, who recounted the final seconds of the tragedy before being wheeled into the intensive care unit of Howrah General Hospital, is in a critical condition. "We were slightly behind the scheduled arrival time at Howrah station as we had got caught in a traffic snarl earlier. Bimal (Das) was egging on Vivekananda (Parui) to make up for lost time. As one takes the bridge from the southern end, there is a left turn. It is while taking this turn that the steering got jammed. Bimal screamed at me and I jumped out. I thought I was safe. But as fate would have it, the rear section of the bus hit me and I fell off the bridge," Firdaus told TOI. Vivekananda was the driver and Bimal, the conductor, of the bus. Vivekananda, who tried to jump out of the bus, was caught in the high-tension wires and electrocuted. Some locals, however, said the Howrah station-bound minibus from Nazirganj in Sankrail was speeding in a bid to overtake another bus when the driver lost control. Buses are prone to speeding at the fag end of the journey. Around the mid-way point across the bridge, it swerved dangerously to the left, jumped on to the footpath and headed straight for the guard railings. As people looked on in horror, the bus broke through the concrete barriers and plunged on to the tracks below. "The road surface was greasy following a shower. The bus driver appeared to brake suddenly, causing the wheels to swerve sharply to the left. The driver lost control and crashed through the railing, disappearing with a chunk of the concrete barrier," recalled a stunned eyewitness. Below, Mithila Express had just pulled out of platform 11. The guard was still leaning out of his compartment at the rear of the train and waving the green flag when he saw the bizarre sight of an upturned bus drop on the tracks next to platform 12. The deafening sound of the impact as the bus crashed into the gravelled tracks alerted porters, who rushed to the spot. The bus disintegrated completely on impact and lay turtle. The roof, partly charred when it came into contact with the overhead railway traction line, lay at a distance. All the passengers were trapped in the mangled steel frame under the chassis, either crushed to death or barely alive. "It was a bizarre scene. The bus lay turtle. The undercarriage and wheels appeared to be staring skyward. The carriage was shattered. I could see bloodied limbs sticking out of the mangled steel," said porter Ratan Singh. Singh and others managed to yank out the first of the passengers trapped under the metal mess. Railway Protection Force personnel, Eastern Railway officials and a railway medical team soon arrived on the spot. Gas cutters were requisitioned to slice through the steel and reach the passengers. They were then carted across the platform in trolleys that coolies use to ferry luggage. Doctors at Howrah hospital said most passengers had suffered head injuries and concussions. Several had badly mangled limbs with bones jutting out through gaping wounds. While a majority of the injured were rushed to Howrah General Hospital, some with extensive bone dislocation were taken to Howrah Railway Orthopedic Hospital. Train operations at Howrah Station was suspended as locals joined the rescue operation. Power was shut down on overhead tractions between platform 10 and 23. Rajdhani Express was later passed through track 10. Howrah SP Neeraj Kumar, who was at the spot along with RPF commandant Raja Ram, Howrah mayor Mamata Jaiswal and sub-divisional officer Soumendranath Bandyopadhyay said a case had been registered and a probe into the accident was under way. Railway minister Mamata Banerjee, who visited the injured at the Howrah General Hospital later in the evening, said the railways would bear the cost of treatment but ruled out compensation to the dead as it was not a railway accident. "Such tragedies will continue as long as the state government does not abolish the commission structure and introduces salaries for bus employees," she said. This isn't the first time that a bus has plunged off Bankim Setu. A couple of years ago, another mini-bus had crashed through the barriers on the same flank but passengers escaped with injuries after the vehicle's fell on the roof of stalls that were under construction next to the railway lines below. A year prior to that, a truck tumbled off the opposite flank. However, the only other accident of a similar magnitude happened three years ago when a passenger bus fell off the Bally CCR bridge on the train track at Bally Halt. Eleven persons had died in that accident.