LAHORE: Five children sitting on top of a private bus were crushed to death as the driver tried to manoeuvre through the Jinnah underpass on Wednesday.
The roof of the bus hit the ceiling of the underpass instantly killing four students as three of their peers jumped off to save their lives. The boys were aged between 14 and 16 years of age. Rescue 1122 officials removed the bodies of the children and rushed one boy with a pulse to Jinnah Hospital where he expired shortly afterwards.
The students were on their way to the Government High School near Raiwind Road from Data Darbar. The Lahore Transport Company bus took a detour through Canal Road instead of its usual route from Multan Road to Thokar Niaz Baig. Not one traffic warden was spotted or stopped the bus on its journey through Bhatti Gate to Jinnah underpass. Heavy vehicles are prohibited from using the underpasses. The driver and the conductor abandoned the bus and escaped from the scene immediately after the accident.
The surviving students were identified as Noor Zaib, Abbas and Umair. Noor described how the eight children had decided to skip school and go to Data Darbar to recite Fateha early Wednesday morning. He stated that they boarded the bus after their visit and were asked by the conductor to climb onto the rooftop. The bodies were handed to the families without an autopsy. Zahid Hussain Shah, the station house officer of Jinnah Town police station registered an FIR against the driver Muhammad Afzal and the conductor Shaukat Ali.
The FIR was registered on the complaint of Muhammed Safdar, the father of one of the deceased children. Tariq Masood Yasin the Deputy Inspector General of city traffic police said that although the entire blame could not be placed on traffic wardens, he admitted that they should have stopped the bus.
He stated that wardens were usually placed on duty near underpasses to stop heavy vehicles from using them. He added that the accident would not have occurred had the rules not been violated by the driver and the conductor. Tariq stated that he had suspended eleven CTP officials including two inspectors and nine wardens on charges of negligence. Two wardens have been deployed at each underpass on Canal Road after the incident.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 20th, 2010.