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    Drivers charred as lorry, bus collide

    COIMBATORE: More than 40 passengers onboard a private bus had a miraculous escape after the bus in which they were travelling went up in flames after colliding head-on with a lorry on the L&T Bypass Road on the outskirts of Coimbatore on Monday.However, the drivers of both the vehicles were charred to death in the mishap, which happened shortly past midnight near the Karpagam deemed University. The omni bus, operated by Kerala-based Kallada Travels, was bound for Bangalore via Coimbatore with 43 passengers, two drivers (including the substitute) and a cleaner on board.As per eyewitness accounts, a lorry transporting fish waste to an organic fertilizer manufacturing company in Kerala, was approaching from the opposite direction when it brushed against another lorry that was speeding ahead of the bus. In the impact, the lorry driver (transporting fish) lost control of the vehicle, which collided with the bus, resulting in a blaze that engulfed both the vehicles.A police official said, “While the bus driver S Mohandas (49) of Thrissur and the lorry driver Ganesan of Salem were charred on the spot, the passengers miraculously managed to escape.” Mohandas, who was the substitute driver, had taken over the wheel from his colleague Sathish, just 15 minutes before the accident. “Mohandas’ legs got stuck in the mangled remains of the vehicle. We pulled out his body with great difficulty,” the official added.Meanwhile, Sathish, who sustained a fracture, was admitted to the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital (CMCH). As many as 18 passengers, including eight women, who sustained minor injuries in the mishap, were treated as outpatients at the CMCH and at a private hospital. It was Unnikrishnan, the cleaner of the bus, who helped some of the passengers to get out of the burning bus, eyewitnesses said.Passengers AsleepMost of the passengers on board the ill-fated bus that went up in flames were asleep when the accident occurred. Sowmya, a passenger, recalled the horrifying incident to Express, “The incident happened around 1 am while we were asleep. Suddenly, we were woken up by a loud thud and all of us were thrown off our seats to the floor of the bus. Within seconds, we saw fire spreading on the front side of the bus and we were not able to get out through the door.”She added, “We got out of the semi-sleeper bus through the emergency exit after breaking open the glass windows. A few others escaped through the ventilation window on the roof.” A software engineer, she was travelling from Kollam in Kerala to Bangalore, where she was working.A few nursing students were also among those who escaped. But, their certificates and other belongings were reduced to ashes. On information, Coimbatore Rural SP Uma visited the spot and conducted an inquiry. The Chettipalayam police have filed a case. The mishap affected traffic on the L&T Bypass Road for a few hours.