CHANDIGARH: Four children including three of the same family burnt to death and eight others were injured as their school van caught fire near Longowal in Sangrur district on Saturday. The police arrested two including the principal-cum owner of the school.
Sources said that the school van was carrying twelve students who were returning to home after school when their van caught fire on the Longowal-Sidsamachar road. Eight children were safely pulled out of the van by people working in nearby fields.
An eyewitness said that the driver did not know about fire and they had to follow the van to inform him of the fire in the backside of the vehicle. He immediately stopped and people gathered on the spot tried to douse the fire. They broke the window panes of the vehicle and pulled out the children. Four children died on the spot and the rest were taken to hospitals.
It is learnt that the van was purchased by the school just a day ago. It was in a dilapidated state and was running on gas cylinder. An RTA official said that there was no registration of the vehicle as it was more than fifteen years old.
Angry locals blocked the road and refused to allow the district administration to remove the bodies of children from the van even as the Deputy Commissioner and senior Superintendent of Police reached the spot. Meanwhile, the civil hospital in Sangrur has deputed a team of doctors to provide treatment to the injured.
Deputy Commissioner of Sangrur, Ghanshyam Thori said that he had ordered police to register a case under section 304 of IPC against the school principal, management, driver and others. He also said that if any official of Regional Transport Authority is found guilty of getting the clearances for this vehicle inspite of its dilapidated condition, action will be taken on that official too. Thori added that a manhunt is on to nab him at the earliest.
Punjab Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla, Sangrur Member of Parliament Bhagwant Mann, Aam Aadmi Party MLA from Sunam, Aman Arora, have reached the accident site. Mann said that it was the first day in school for a two and half year old girl who died in this incident. The school management and others should be booked on charges of murder and they should be tried in fast track court. "The driver of the van ran away from the spot," he alleged.
The cause of the fire has not yet been ascertained. The van belonged to Simran Public School in Sangrur.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh ordered a magisterial injury, Singh said, "Very sad to learn of this news where we lost four children because their school van caught fire. The injured have been rushed to the hospital. I have ordered a magisterial enquiry. The guilty will be strictly punished."