One passenger died on the spot

Accident: The 14 Bhutanese passengers of the Bhutan Post bus that rammed into a cowshed killing one and injuring two on October 7 were still waiting for Bhutan Post at 11pm last night to lift them.

The passengers including four non-Bhutanese who were on their way to Kolkata from Phuentsholing were in Raiganj town, about 250 kilometres away from Siliguri as of last night.

However, they were moved to a hotel after waiting for help in the open for almost 17 hours. In a telephone interview, a passenger said that they were waiting for another Bhutan Post bus as they were informed that a bus would come to collect them.

A 45-year-old man from Phuentsholing died on the spot when the bus hit a cowshed and turned sideways on the highway around 11:30pm. The deceased’s wife, who is 42-year-old has been admitted to a hospital in Siliguri.

The accident occurred at Raiganj village, West Bengal, which is about 230km from Phuentsholing towards Kolkata. Right after the accident, a passenger called his family in Thimphu who in turn informed the police in Phuentsholing seeking help. The passenger said a police officer arrived at the scene around 8 am yesterday.  “Had there been no support from Indian police we would have been in a big trouble,” said the passenger. He said the bus after hitting the cowshed killed three cows and a goat, and damaged an electric pole as well.

Following the accident a huge crowd of local people surrounded them and asked compensation for the cows.

Four of the passengers were patients referred to Kolkata. Among them is a two-year old heart patient. The oldest patient is a 55-year old man. Another passenger said that they were put in a small room by Indian police and were told to wait for the Bhutan police. “The Indian police protected us from the huge crowd,” he said.

One of the attendants said that until 4pm yesterday, passengers were left in an open area without proper meal or water. “We contacted Bhutan Post management and they said a bus would be sent immediately,” he said.

A Bhutan Post official from the head office in Thimphu said they were trying to arrange vehicles to lift the passengers. He also said Bhutan Post’s officials in Kolkata have reached the scene to help the passengers.

An assistant manager with Bhutan Post in Phuentsholing, Sharmila Chhetri said the driver sustained minor injuries on one leg while four others injured were taken to a hospital for observation.

The 35-seater bus departs from Phuentsholing at 3pm and reaches Kolkata the next morning around 10am to 11am. Some passengers complained that the bus was not in good condition and was speeding.

Sharmila Chhetri said Bhutan Post carries out mileage and distance inspection, including surprise inspections.  “We monitor everything possible as far as safety is concerned,” she said.

Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing