Three killed in Kalar Kahar accident

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Mar 29, 2014.

Islamabad – The accident-prone Salt Range patch of the Lahore-Islamabad motorway near Kalar Kahar was the scene of another accident on Friday when a bus overturned on the road, killing three passengers and injuring four others.

An eight-year-old girl Erum Shahzadi and a woman Jannat Bibi died on the spot, according to police and rescue officials. One man was critically injured in the accident and died at the District Headquarters hospital in Chakwal, where the injured were shifted and treated.

The accident occurred when the brakes of the bus failed, according to National Highways and Motorways Police (NHMP) officer Ishtiaq Akbar.

“The bus crashed in to the road’s side safety wall and overturned on the road,” Akbar said.

He said the NHMP are investigating the accident to check for over-speeding and a case has been registered against the bus driver. Initial investigations are indicating it was a “technical fault,” even though the fitness certificate of the bus was valid, according to the NHMP.

The bus was privately hired by some villagers and, at the time of the accident, the bus was traveling to the shrine of Peer da Khara near Lilla from Jhang, Akbar said.

“The bus driver missed the Lilla interchange exit to reach the shrine,” he said. “After realizing the mistake, he exited back from Kalar Kahar to reach Lilla through the salt range.”

The 10-kilometre stretch of the M-2 motorway through the salt range hills is a tricky drive with strict, low speed limits. The salt range has witnessed several road accidents over the past few years, some of them attributed to mechanical faults but others caused by over-speeding and sometimes overloading of passenger buses.

Ten people were killed in the same area in a similar accident involving a single bus in July 2013. According to previous reports, 69 people were killed in 16 accidents on the motorway’s salt range track in 2012.

Even more fatal was a September 2011 accident in which an overcrowded bus carrying children from Faisalabad overturned after skidding on the road. At least 37 school children died in the accident.

Almost all major reported accidents in the area had some form of brakes failure. A July 2013 report published in The Express Tribune indicated over 200 accidents have occurred at one particular narrow turn in the salt range.

Motorway police advise drivers to cover the trek 25 minutes but they said new drivers often ignore the speed limits. The road safety is sometimes also imperiled by the road’s condition, for which the NHMP officials said they have written to the National Highway Authority.

Police claimed the group of passengers in Friday’s accident possibly belonged to a village near Chiniot. None of the injured passengers were in critical condition and were discharged after treatment, according to rescue officials.

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