DEARLY LOSS: Kamal wailing bitterly for his grandson Jinan Azimudeen, who lost his life in the school van mishap on Thursday.
THIRUVANATHAPURAM: The brightly-coloured bags inside the damaged white Omni van of the Little Hearts Kindergarten were covered with weeds and mud from the Parvathy Puthanar. Bags with pictures of kid idols like Ben 10, Superman, Dora and even Hannah Montana - bags that any kid would be proud to take to school. The Dora bag had the name of Achu K S on it, a red bag with Reebok written across had the name Ujjwal - bags which Ujjwal and Achu will never open again.
The books were all wet, but the names could still be made out - Janaki and Rasik A S were just a few. The number of bags and the number of children saved did not tally, probably because of the tiffin bags, in which the mothers had packed lunch for them. The accident happened between 9.15 am and 9.25 am, the time when almost all the children in the city go to school.
Screams tore the air as the van with the number plate KL-01 AS 4107 was lifted out of the water - there were four tiny tots in it. The residents of the area, who normally would not think of even touching the dirty waters of the Parvathy Puthanar for fear of getting skin diseases, did not think twice before jumping into the filthy water. There were at least 40 men in the toxic waters, looking for the little ones who were missing and there were thousands on the road to watch the rescue operations.
‘’Oh, I saw this van going down and down into the water and I was so shocked that I became numb. Then I saw a young man swimming out, he must be around 25,’’ this was sixty-plus Saraswathy, living in a rented house, near the accident spot. Eyewitnesses, including a KSEB linesman, said the van was overspeeding, while others said the van had hit either a boulder or the root of a tree before falling into the water. The driver’s side of the van in front was damaged.
Whatever be the immediate cause, the state of the road at the spot was pretty dangerous with one half sloping into the water. ‘’Vehicles have been regularly falling into the water from this road. Either they should straighten the road or at least fence it properly,’’ said Kala, another resident of the area who was on her way to work with her husband when the accident occurred.
Bindu, the ayah from Nettayam near Vattiyoorkavu, was found by the rescuers lying across inside the vehicle, with the children beneath her. She was one of the first to succumb to death. Achu, Ujjwal, Jinan and Arsha Baiju died at KIMS Hospital, from where they were shifted to the Medical College Hospital for post-mortem.
Janaki, Rasik, Irfan, Malavika and Ancy initially survived. Malavika, who had been fighting hard for her life, died late in the afternoon. The condition of the two boys Irfan and Rasik worsened by evening. At the time of going to press, both the boys were on ventilators.