Pune, Jan 25 (IANS): At least nine people were killed, 40 injured and more than two dozen vehicles damaged when a mentally disturbed staffer of the government bus service hijacked a state transport (ST) bus and sped blindly through the streets of this Maharashtra city on Wednesday, police said.
"So far, nine pedestrians, including two children, have been killed in the incident and around 40 injured," an official of Pune police control told IANS. The condition of at least five of the injured, being treated at the Sassoon Hospital, is reported to be serious.
More than two dozen vehicles have been damaged in the incident, he added.
Santosh Mane, a Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) driver, was finally overtaken and arrested from the Nilayam Talkies area, around 25 km from the Swargate ST Depot from where it was hijacked, the official told IANS.
The official said details were being collated from various police stations since the vehicle passed through the jurisdiction of around five police stations on the route from Swargate to Nilayam Talkies area.
The incident happened shortly before 8 a.m. when Mane suddenly climbed into a Pune-Satara-Pune bus at the Swargate ST Depot and zoomed off, driving at a high speed on the wrong side of the road, taking the oncoming vehicles and people unawares.
However, top officials were not able to confirm whether the bus was occupied by passengers or not at the morning peak travel time, or Mane's motives in his wayward behavior.
According to police, Mane sped off for nearly 25 km, ramming stationary or moving vehicles en route and crushing or knocking off pedestrians before he was nabbed by a police party at Dandekar Flyover, the official said.
Though police officials refused to confirm, eyewitnesses said that a couple of cops on duty managed to clamber aboard the moving bus and fired some rounds in the air to scare the driver.
The eyewitnesses said that they shouted out to the cops to fire at the tyres of the speeding bus to force it to stop, but it was not clear whether they were heard.
Fire brigade officials and local residents helped police bring the vehicle under control and help move the injured to nearby hospitals.
Senior officials rushed to the scene and authorities requisitioned a crane to remove the bus and other damaged vehicles along the route to clear the road for normal traffic.