Faulty design of Volvo bus led to AP accident: Report

'The manufacturer has also been made an accused in the case'

Faulty design of Volvo bus  led to AP accident: Report

A probe by the Andhra Pradesh CID team has indicated that ‘faulty’ design of Volvo buses was among the three major causes for the fire which engulfed a Volvo bus and claimed 45 lives on October 30, 2013, in Mahabubnagar district in Andhra Pradesh.

Additional Director General of Police (CID) T Krishna Prasad told the media in Hyderabad on Wednesday that the finding showed that there was a ‘defect’ in the design of Volvo buses which do not make them road worthy. “This is our finding and we will write to the Government of India about it. We will shortly file a charge sheet. Volvo as a company has also been made an accused in the case.”

The ill-fated bus was bound for Hyderabad from Bangalore.

The findings of the CID team has lent weight to the inquiry report submitted by the Karnataka’s Transport Department wherein it is stated that the fire erupted due to engine malfunction or faulty turbo chargers or a short circuit in the bus.

New dimension

The report by Karnataka officials, which was submitted to the State government on December 1, 2013, gave a new dimension to the accident probe. The probe team concluded that the bus was running at a high speed of 110 to 120 kmph. When it hit the median, the fire from within might have spread to the fuel tanks, rapidly transforming the bus into an inferno.

The transport department’s findings also found some corroboration from a separate investigation that was carried out by the Andhra Pradesh State Forensic Science Laboratory (APSFSL). On November 14, 2013, a Volvo bus caught fire near Haveri in a similar manner claiming seven lives.
 When contacted, Karnataka’s Transport Commissioner K Amaranaryana, reacting to the Andhra Pradesh CID report, said, “It is too premature to decide on the Volvo buses and terming them unsafe for use. We cannot take a call on it now. NATRIP, which investigated both the incidents, is yet to submit its final report. Until a competent authority such as NATRIP submits its final report, it will be preemptive to decide on the safety aspect of Volvo buses.”

According to CID investigations, the design of the Volvo bus is such that one main fuel tank of 300 litres is very close to the battery compartment, which tends to be in proximity to the road on the right hand side of the bus.

After the bus hit the culvert, the iron pipe on the culvert railing broke and pierced through the bus, due to which sparks emanated from the battery compartment, igniting the main fuel tank, which was made of plastic, Assistant Director General of Police Prasad explained.

The APSFSL’s findings, based on spot investigations and forensic evidence, had pointed to overspeeding, the overheated battery under the driver’s seat and the fibre fuel tank as the main reasons for the blaze.

The multi-axle, long-haul Volvo has three fuel tanks with a combined capacity of 600 litres, and the Laboratory estimated that there should have been 150 litres of fuel as the bus had travelled 430 kilometres at the time of the accident.

A Volvo spokesperson, when asked about the AP CID report, reiterated that there was no fault in the design of Volvo buses that could have led to the accident. 

“Volvo is cooperating and has been sharing inputs with the competent technical agencies on this matter,” he said.

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