While going downhill in the foggy morning, the bus fell into a 300-foot-deep muddy and rocky gorge.
Thirteen passengers died on the spot while four others succumbed to their injuries at Bandarban Sadar Hospital, said Lt Col Nurul Momen Chowdhury, commanding officer of 10 Battalion of Border Guard Bangladesh. Ten critically injured victims were moved to Chittagong Medical College Hospital later on for better treatment.
The passengers who died on the spot were identified as U Hla Ching Marma, 60, Awami League president of Thanchi union unit and a resident of Thanchi Headmanpara, his daughter Key Ki Nue, 11, a class-VII student of Ramu Girls High School in Cox’s Bazar, Caritas NGO field workers Sheshanta Tripura, 30, of Thanchi, and Rintu Chakma, 25, of Rangamati, Ching Sha Aung Marma, 48, a worker of Thanchi Health Complex, Hla Sa Thui, 11, a class-VI student of Tilak Mukherjee Memorial School at Gopalganj, farmer Aung Hla Pru Marma, 30, Kanti Tripura, Mong Hla Ching Marma, tourists Rajib Chowdhury, Hasan and Tariqul Alam Sujan of Chandpur and Tanvir Rezwan of Mugda, Dhaka.
The four who died in Bandarban Sadar Hospital were Jacob Tripura, 28, field facilitator of Caritas, Nurul Islam, a contractor, and Samu Dutta and Belua Barua.
The 10 injured and admitted to Chittagong Medical College Hospital were bus driver Subhash Das, 55, Liton Mia, 40, Hla Gayang, 15, Daw Sing Nue Marma, 14, Mang Sing Marma, 18, Chiro Ma, 23, and tourists Nurul Huda Tipu, 42, Salehin, 28, Sahab Uddin, 36 and Abdul Hoque, 42.
Bangladesh Army and BGB personnel, firemen and police joined locals in the rescue operations that ended at 4:30pm. However, the mangled bus remains in the ravine.
The first bus of the morning to Bandarban from Thanchi upazila left from the bus stop around 8:00am Saturday with approximately 40 people on board. It only travelled six to seven kilometres before falling into the gorge, said Neyamatul Karim, officer-in-charge of Thanchi Police Station.
Injured passengers were quoted as saying that the driver most probably misjudged the treacherous hilly roads at Shilerjhir in the dense fog.
Many died as the bus tumbled down into the gorge while several others received grievous injuries, they said. The rescue operation was carried out manually without the help of any equipment.
Asked about the possibility of someone still lying trapped down there, BGB official Nurul Momen said, “We do not have any information that someone is missing…We need heavy equipment to pull the bus out.”
Bandarban Deputy Commissioner Mizanur Rahman visiting the spot said the district administration will bear the treatment expenses of the injured.
He also said Tk 5,000 and 500kg of rice will be given to the families that lost a loved one in the accident.
A month short of two years ago, nine people were killed and over 35 were injured when a bus carrying students of Chittagong Government College on a picnic fell into a ditch beside Bandarban-Chittagong highway in Bandarban.