PALPA, July 28: Fourteen people including 13 from a Nepali family living in India, were killed when an Indian jeep veered off a mountainous road and plunged 100 meters down into a river at Jorte of Baughapokharathok VDC in Palpa district early Saturday morning.
The family was bringing cremated remains of Dhan Bahadur Rana, 60, who died in Delhi, India to their ancestral home in Thanapati-5, Thorga of Gulmi.
Only two of the 16 members of the Rana family, going to Kaligandaki Ghat in Ridi to scatter the ashes, survive the accident that occurred around midnight. Dhan Bahadur´s son Satyendra, 30, was seriously injured and is being treated at Lumbini Medical College, Tansen along with 10-year-old Nilesh Rana.
The victims have been as identified Satyendra´s wife Rita, their daughter, his elder brother Nara Bahadur, the brother´s two daughters and a son, Satyendra´s sister Bitiya, her two kids, Satyendra´s step-mother and her three daughters and an Indian driver.
Others were identified as Sanu Rana, Ganga Rana, Khagi Sara Rana, Kaveli Rana, Bhawana Rana, Tirsana Rana, Syarali Rana and Indian driver Ashok Kumar Tiwari. However, the names of four kids are still uknown. Identification of the bodies have been difficult as the whole family was living in India.
The speeding Tata Sumo jeep lost control on a dirt section of the road before plunging into the river. “The jeep seems to have bounced after hitting a hume pipe in the dirt road and landed on a rock in the river,” Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Mira Chaudhary said.
Ambulance driver Padam Kandel, quoting injured Satyendra, said the accident occurred at around midnight. Rescue work started only after locals saw the injured at around six in the morning. All the dead were cremated at Ridi Ghat Saturday evening in the presence of Chief District Officer of Gulmi. Dhan Bahadur´s 82-year-old father An Bahadur lit the funeral pyres.
Eyewitness account by Anit Gauchan
I always go for morning walk while brushing my teeth in the morning. I was returning home at around 5:30 after reaching the jungle along the river bank when I saw a plumpish man, lying in the water along the bank, waving his hands. He must have waved his hands when I was going toward the jungle also but I could have missed him because I was going in the opposite direction. He probably was waiting for me to return.
I was scared at first to see the man waving his hand. I saw people floating in the river around a mangled jeep. I realized that they were dead as I approached the accident site. The plumpish man continued to wave his hands. My body trembled in fear and I rushed back to my home. I went there again with around a dozen neighbors. We brought the man up to the road. He asked me where his daughters and wife were. We didn´t point toward the bodies and he was seriously injured to turn his body and look around.
We presumed everybody else to be dead but a neighbor shouted that a boy was still breathing. He was partially submerged in the water and his eyes were open. I asked him to come up but he did not. We raised him by his hands and he said in Hindi that he does not have a leg. There were cuts in his cheeks while one of his legs was smashed at different places below the thigh. He did not say anything else and was semi-conscious.
Six bodies were trapped inside the crushed vehicle while eight were floating in the water. The bodies were swollen and looked to have remained in the water for around four to five hours. I think many of them could have been saved if rescued on time.
Rescuers carrying the dead body from the accident site.
Police personnels and locals seen carrying out the rescue operation
The remains of the mangled jeep. Photos: Tek Narayan Bhattarai