30 wedding guests killed as truck plunge into riverbed in India

Police say the driver tried to pass a car on a narrow bridge and lost control of the truck

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2018, 12:16am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2018, 12:55am

At least 30 people were killed and several more injured on Tuesday when a low loader carrying members of a wedding party veered into a dry riverbed in the western Indian state of Gujarat, officials said.

Police said that the wedding guests from the district of Bhavnagar were travelling to the ceremony in a nearby village when the driver tried to pass a car on a narrow bridge and lost control of the vehicle. Many of the injured were trapped under the twisted wreckage and had to be extracted by villagers and emergency personnel, according to Harshad Patel, the district collector.

Suresh Madhav Vaghela, 35, an uncle of the groom, said the wedding party from the groom’s side had left their village to travel to a nearby village, where the bride and her family were waiting. Everybody was laughing, singing traditional wedding songs and having a good time when they felt a terrible jolt, he recalled.

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“The driver seemed to have lost control,” Vaghela said in an interview. “Before we could realise anything, the truck fell down into the pit. Everyone was screaming and shouting. I was badly injured but conscious. I looked around and could see my family members screeching in pain. But others were motionless.”

Family members said that the groom, Vijay Vaghela, 23, was driving in a separate car with his brother at the time of the accident and that they did not tell him about the accident until after the wedding ceremony. The two men are now the only surviving members of their family of farmers. Their parents, along with their grandparents and several aunts and uncles, were among the dead, Vaghela said.

Another survivor, Munna Purushottam Chauhan, 23, a cousin of the groom, was sitting at the back of the truck when it plummeted down the ravine.

“We were all very happy,” he recalled. “I was talking to my relatives, when suddenly the truck became shaky – it felt as if someone had thrown me from a great height. I don’t know what happened after that.”

More than three dozen injured people were treated at a government hospital. Authorities said they were still investigating the cause of the accident. The driver was unharmed.

India has among the most dangerous roads in the world, with 150,000 traffic-related deaths in 2016, according to the most recent government statistics.

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“My condolences to all those who lost their loved ones due to an accident near Ranghola in Gujarat,” India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, wrote in a tweet. “The accident was extremely unfortunate and anguishing. May those who have been injured recover at the earliest.”

Vijay Rupani, Gujarat’s chief minister, also expressed condolences.

“Saddened by the loss of lives due to a road accident near Ranghola,” he tweeted. “May those who have been injured recover at the earliest. I pray for the departed souls. Om Shanti.”