At least five people were killed on the spot and three seriously injured when an Eicher truck they were traveling in skidded off the road and plunged into the whirlpool of a waterfall at Namling brag along the east-west lateral highway.
According to a news report in Kuensel, the accident occurred around 10 am along the accident prone Namling brag area, about 71 km away from Mongar. The truck plunged about 50 m below the road.
All passengers were monks, including the 48-year old umzey of the Geden dratshang in Ura, Bumthang.
While the driver and two monks, aged 12 and 16, survived and were taken to the Mongar regional referral hospital, the others died on the spot, said police. Including the umzey the others were nine, 11, 13 and 14 years old.
The 16 year old monk is in critical condition said the doctor on duty, Dr Namsa Dorji. “He suffered an eye injury, open fracture wounds in his limbs and massive bleeding,” the doctor said.
While the driver does not have external injuries, its yet to know if he suffered any internal injuries. “The 12 year old injured his head but he is stable,” Dr Namsa Dorji said.
An eyewitness, Karma Dolma, who was following the truck in a Hilux, said that the truck snaked several times before it went off the road. The truck was on its way to Bumthang.
Karma Dolma is the daughter-in-law of Geden Dratshang’s lam. She informed that the monks were returning from Trashiyangtse, after reciting Kanjur and attending the 49-day ritual for her brother’s death.
The Gyalpoizhing police and its rescue team, officials from the dzongkhag and the Gyalpoi Zimpon’s office reached the accident site at around 12 noon.
All bodies were found, with the last one recovered around 5:30 pm, after a search that took more than two hours, said police. The Gyalpoi Zimpon’s office gave a semso of Nu 10,000 each to the families of the accident’s victims and Nu 3,000 each to the injured passengers.
Police said that the cause of the accident is not known and that they are still investigating the case.
The last major accident at the same place happened in June 1998 when the then Druk Express killed 58 people including three Sherubste collge students.
During the construction of the east-west highway, Namling was the most difficult area. Elderly Bhutanese say that at one time 240 workers were buried alive in a mud slide during construction. The lateral route finally opened in early 1980s, 20 years after its construction started.