AT least 43 boys were killed and 12 more injured when a truck carrying them plunged into a ditch at Mirsarai upazila of southeastern district of Chittagong Monday.
Forty-one of the deceased were school goers and the other two college students.
According to police and witnesses, the driver lost control over the wheels while giving way to a three-wheeler coming from the opposite direction near Mayani Bridge, on the link road between Abu Toarb Bazar and Borotakia, around 12:45pm.
One of the survivors of the accident, Emran, student of class X of Abu Torab Bohumukhi High School, said the driver was talking on his cellphone when the accident happened. Despite repeated warnings he kept talking on the phone.
The driver escaped after the accident.
The vehicle was carrying around 70 students who were returning after a match of Bangabandhu Gold Cup Primary School Football Tournament in a stadium of the upazila. On its way the truck dropped off 10 students.
Six divers of Bangladesh Navy and a wrecker of fire service were rushed in for the rescue. The health ministry instructed specialised doctors of Chittagong and Feni to rush to the spot for first aid.
Before the rescue team arrived, locals pulled out around 24 bodies and rescued four students.
The rescuers recovered 16 injured students from the wreckage and sent them to Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH). The on duty doctors at the hospital declared four of the injured dead, said CMCH sources, adding that the deceased were identified as Md Shamsuddin, 15, Shakhawat Hossain, 13, Mezbah Uddin, 18, and Saiful Islam, 11.
The bus was pulled off the ditch around 5:pm and the rescue operation was called off around 7:00pm.
The bodies were handed over to families.
The victim students were mostly of Abu Torab Bohumukhi High School and Abu Torab Fazil Madrasa. Abu Torab School had a football match with Moghadia Anjumanunnesa Government Primary School. The match ended around 11:30am.
President of the tournament Kabir Ahmad, also Chairman of ward -13 of Mayani union, said the school authorities hired CNG-run-auto rickshaws for players and the truck for supporters.
Locals alleged the truck was overloaded and it was driven by a helper, not the driver.
Locals gathered most of the bodies on the Abu Torab school premises. A namaz-e-janaza was held there after the Esha prayers.
Meanwhile in separate messages, President Zillur Rahman, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid, Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain and Health Minister AFM Ruhal Haque, among others, expressed deep shock over the accident and conveyed condolences to the bereaved families.
Unicef also expressed heartfelt condolence over the death of the students.