Driver of the ill-fated Volvo bus Firoz Pasha had called Shakeel Jabbar, one of the owners of the travel agency, Jabbar Travels, just seconds before the fire engulfed the vehicle.
Jameel Jabbar, brother of Shakeel, said the driver called up to say that the vehicle had deflated tyre and he had managed to pull the bus to the left side of the road.
Meanwhile, cleaner Ayaz, who got down to see what had happened, came screaming that the tyre had caught fire and it is engulfing the vehicle. “My brother could hear it over phone and later the mobile went off. Sensing that something is wrong he immediately left in a car to the spot. This was the last communication by the driver,” Jameel said.
Shakeel said, “Around 4.45 am I was informed about the accident by the bus driver. Servicing was done for the vehicle for every 25,000 km. Pasha has eight years of experience, of which three years on Volvo buses. The vehicle has run 6.50 lakh km. The tax, insurance amounts are paid.”
However, some believe that at least a few passengers could have been saved if the driver and cleaner of the bus had tried to rescue them. Staff of the Jabbar Travels at Hyderabad office maintained that it was a 44-seater bus and no extra passengers were on board.
Jabbar, another owner of the company, said, “The bus involved in the accident was taken on lease from Diwakar Road Lines and owned by Uma Reddy.”
Diwakar Road lines owner Uma Reddy had mentioned in the agreement that, as they are unable to maintain and operate the bus, they are leasing it to Jabbar Travels of Bangalore.
The document also mentions that compensation and damage amounts to be paid by the Jabbar Travels.
Rahim, who is in charge of the agency’s office in Hyderabad, said the bus is equipped with a speed governor which will ‘cease’ if the bus exceeds 110 kmph. He termed allegations about the bus — that it lacked fitness; the operator did not have inter-state permit and payment of road tax to the tune of `12 lakh is due for the past three years — baseless.
According to him, the names of the passengers are available only when they book their tickets online and the chart is available only for internal purposes. Customers too do not give full addresses, alternative phone numbers etc, he said.
Pasha and Ayaz, who managed to escape with injuries, were taken into custody when they approached the local police station.
Before the journey began, the vehicle was refuelled at a petrol station near Lalbaagh West Gate, Bangalore. “Normally, we fill 650 liters of diesel that is sufficient for Bangalore to Hyderabad and return trip,” Shakeel m0aintained.
Jabbar Travels operates five daily services between Hyderabad and Bangalore and three daily services between Hyderabad and Pune.