Six passengers were charred to death and 20 others sustained burns, three of them seriously, when a private non-air conditioned sleeper bus caught fire and rammed into iron barricades near Metikurke in Hiriyur taluk of Chitradurga district in the early hours of Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters at the spot, about 90 km from here, Chitradurga Superintendent of Police Y S Ravikumar said that the bus had left Davangere for Bangalore around 00.30 am. The bus, belonging to Bangalore-based SPR travels, caught fire around 2.30 am. He said the police suspected that the fire could have been caused by a short circuit or a technical failure. Only a proper investigation by competent authorities could pinpoint the cause of the fire, he added.
As the bus owners did not have the list of passengers, the police are finding it difficult to identity the bodies. Charred bodies have been sent to Bangalore for DNA test for identification, Inspector General of Police (Eastern Range) S Parashivamurthy, who visited the spot, said. This is the third major accident in which passengers perished after fire engulfed the bus.
Sanjay, who is a priest in Harihar, and his wife Rama and Mustafa, who owns a footwear shop in Davangere, were admitted to Shamanoor Shivashankarappa Hitech Hospital here. As many as 17 were treated as outpatients at Hiriyur and Chitradurga hospitals. Prashanth of Putaganal village and Ravikumar of Naganur village in Davangere taluk, who were on the ill-fated bus, told Deccan Herald that they had no idea as to how the fire started. They woke up on hearing screaming of the passengers. They managed to jump out of the bus, breaking the rear window shield.
The survivors had different takes on the role of driver Firoz from Davangere, who was arrested by the Hiriyur police. While a few women thanked the driver for bringing the bus to a halt by ramming into the roadside barricade, a couple of passengers alleged that he was driving the bus in a rash and negligent manner.