INDORE: A police constable couldn't hold back a muffled scream as he pulled on a child's leg protruding from under the tyres of a truck on Indore bypass. Sobbing, he tugged at it. The next moment, he recoiled in horror — there was no body attached to the leg that he held in his hands. It still wore the remains of school trousers and a shoe.
Tears streaming down, he covered the limb with a sack and turned towards the carnage around him. People were shouting. Children were sitting on the road divider, bleeding from their heads and mouths. Some lay on the road, unconscious, as frantic rescuers tried to administer CPR. It was difficult to say who was dead, and who was dazed by shock.
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A black shoe lay on the road in tatters — so horrifying was the impact that the foot in it had literally exploded, tearing the straps and upper lining. The road was strewn with little spectacles, water bottles, pencil boxes and limbs — all sitting in puddles of leaking engine oil, diesel and blood.
It was 3.35pm. Just minutes ago, the DPS schoolbus had shot over the 2-ft-high divider and rammed a truck head-on. Black tyre marks show how the truck driver swerved hard to avoid the collision.
'Will never forget screams of kids'
But the bus kept coming and crashed into it so hard that it looks like a bomb had gone off in the front half. The collision was so severe that the 18-wheel truck turned full circle. "The bus would have jumped right off the flyover had it not hit the truck," said Dharmendra Dungarwal, an eyewitness. If it had plunged 20 feet to the traffic below, the body count would have been even higher.
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The bus was descending the flyover at high speed when the driver lost control, say police. The 18-wheeler, which was climbing the slope, was struggling to hold momentum. Passersby remember the moment of impact as an ear-splitting explosion, followed by screech of metal and a moment or two of stunned silence. Then, the screams started — from the children caught in the carnage and those witnessing it.
"I will never forget the screams of the children. Never," said one of the first on the scene. Blood and diesel oozed out of the bus as rescuers tried to pull the remaining children off through windows. The bus driver, 26-year-old Rahul Sisodia, was mangled in the crushed metal.
Passersby stopped to help in the rescue effort. Many rushed the injured kids in their cars to Bombay Hospital, which is the closest to the accident site. Hours after the last of the victims was removed, an air of sadness hung over the accident site. Policemen blocked traffic on the road and used heavy equipment to remove the mangled bus. Volunteers threw sand on the road to cover the dark splotches. People went around slowly picking up shoes, spectacles, and the odds and ends of a schoolday and made a little pile of it on the roadside. The leg covered by a sack remained where it was.
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