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6 die, 14 injured in bus plunge

Matilda Simmons
Sunday, March 04, 2018

March 4, 1989 will remain one of the most tragic for the people of Kavanagasau in Sigatoka after a bus accident killed six passengers and injured 14 people. The Fiji Times carried a front page story on the incident where the bus tumbled down a 40-metre cliff at Kavanagasau that Saturday morning.

Two 11-year-old children were among those admitted to hospital after the Paradise Transport Company bus, on its normal route with 40 passengers, headed for Sigatoka Town, plunged down the cliff. Those dead were Madhu Lalit Kumar Singh, 48, farmer of Kavanagasau; Arjun Naidu, 42, of Nadrala; Pachamma, 35, housewife of Yalasa; Chinamma, 67, housewife, of Nadrala; Nagamma, 30, housewife of Nadrala and Ram Lingam, 54 of Uciwai in Nadi.

Admitted at the Sigatoka Hospital are: Subamma, 45, housewife of Nadrala; Tulsima, 44, housewife of Nadrala; Meenachi, 35, housewife of Kavanagasau; Prem Kumari, 24, and Renuka Sharma, 24, both Kavanagasau; Harish Chandra, 21, of Nadrala; Bimal Naidu,22, Satendra Kumar, 22, Govind Sami, 46, Venkat Sami, 62, all of Kavanagasau and Monita, 11 of Kavanagasau.

Dr Subram Naidu, who worked non-stop with nurses at the hospital from about 10am Saturday until 8am on Sunday, described their conditions as satisfactory.

The accident happened at 9.30am at a treacherous point on the mountains at Kavanagasau about 15km from the Suva end of the Sigatoka Bridge. According to The Fiji Times article, the bus driver, Krishna Reddy, tried to avoid a pothole and lost control of the vehicle. From his Sigatoka Hospital bed, Satendra Kumar recalled the moment of the horror:

"The bus came up a small hill and was descending the slope when the driver pressed on the speed.

"Suddenly, he slammed on the brakes trying to avoid a pothole."

The bus went out of control, veered to the other side of the road and began to tumble. It tumbled three times and landed on its wheels," Mr Kumar was quoted as saying. Kumar was thrown out of the somersaulting bus, and lay dazed on the slope.

"I got my senses back and sat up to see people lying everywhere," he said, biting his teeth in pain and massaging his aching hips.

Seconds later, women began wailing as they regained their dazed senses.

Passenger Bimal Naidu also confirmed Mr Kumar's account of the accident. He was also thrown out as the bus began to tumble.

Ram Surat Sharma, 60, was the first man on the scene. He had been waiting just 300 metres ahead for the bus.

"I heard the sound of the bus engine and then a loud noise. I looked around to see the bus tumbling and people being thrown out."

He ran over to the by-now mangled remains of the bus and was joined by high school student Shivanesh Chand Sharma who lives nearby.

"The first two bodies out of the three still in the bus that we pulled out were lifeless. I knew they were already dead," Mr Sharma said.

He said, his priority was to look for the ones more serious, and during the search among those lying on the slope, he came across four more lifeless bodies. By this time, other residents nearby and seriously injured were put in vehicles and rushed to hospital, the rest as soon as vehicles were available.

"I have not seen anything like this in my life. It was a sad sight to see the passengers, especially women, just sitting there and crying," he was quoted as saying.

Davendra Dass who was in the bus with his wife, Prem Kumari, who was admitted to hospital described his escape as miraculous.

Private doctors, Sigatoka mayor and Dr Avinesh Naidu, turned up at the hospital to help with the emergency. They praised hospital staf; doctor on duty Dr Subram Naidu and four nurses.

Apart from the 14 in hospital, 20 other passengers were treated for slight injuries and sent home. The scene was one of mayhem at the hospital as news of the accident spread and relatives and friends turned up in large numbers to see if any of their people were among the casualties.

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