Kishtwar: At least 17 passengers were killed and 16 more injured when a mini bus skidded off the road and plunged into a gorge in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district on Friday, officials said.  The accident occurred at Dandaran, near Thakrai, when the driver of the mini bus, which was on its way to Kishtwar from the Keshwan area, lost control of it and the vehicle plunged into the over-300-foot gorge, near the Chenab riverbed, on Friday morning, they said.

“A total of 17 persons died and 16 others injured in the unfortunate incident,” District Development Commissioner (Kishtwar) Angrez Singh Rana told.

He said the dead included three women and the driver of the ill-fated vehicle, Ashraf Hussain.

Interestingly, Hussain was fined by the traffic police for overloading on Thursday, officials said.

Rana said most of the victims died on the spot. One of the 11 critically injured persons, airlifted to Jammu for specialised treatment, was declared brought dead by doctors at the Government Medical College Hospital, Jammu.

The district development commissioner, who led the operation along with Senior Superintendent of Police Rajinder Gupta, said, “The next of the kin of the deceased will be given an ex gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh each, while Rs 50,000 will be given to each of the injured persons.” He lauded the Army, police and locals for their swift action in initiating the rescue operation.

Officials said the bus was carrying over 30 passengers. They said five of the injured were undergoing treatment at a local hospital and their condition was stated to be “stable”.  Jammu-based Army spokesman Lt Col Devender Anand said the Indian Air Force had pressed a MI-V5 chopper into service and airlifted eight critically injured victims from Kishtwar to Jammu.

Three other injured were evacuated by a Pawan Hans chopper, Rana said. This is the third major accident in Kishtwar district in the last one month.

While 13 Machail Yatra devotees were killed when their cab plunged into a gorge on August 21, seven persons were killed and 12 others injured when two vehicles were hit by boulders a day earlier.
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