11 pilgrims killed, 19 hurt in Uttarakhand accident

DEHRADUN/PITHORAGARH, May 18: Eleven people, many of them in their teens, were killed and 19 injured in Champawat district today when a speeding truck rammed into a group of pilgrims walking to the Purnagiri temple.

The pilgrims from Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh were on their way to the hilltop temple, well known in the region, when they were knocked down by a dumper truck coming from behind.

The accident took place at 5 am at Bichai, Tanakpur Sub Divisional Magistrate Anil Chanyal said.

Nine pilgrims were killed on the spot and two others succumbed to their injuries while being taken to hospital, the district disaster management office in Champawat said.

The group was following the `dolas’ (palanquins) of Purnagiri Devi, placed on two tractors, when the accident happened, the Tanakpur SDM said.

The devotees, still about 30 km from the temple, were travelling on foot as a mark of gratitude towards the deity for fulfilling their wishes, he said.

The seriously injured pilgrims were admitted at a hospital in Khatima and the others taken to Tanakpur, he said.

The dead included Vir Singh (18), Sonu (8), Vishal (17), Ram kumar (16), Deendayal (35),  Babu (12),  Kesher Singh (16),  Ramswaroop (40),  Sohan (40) and Kamal (19).

They were all from Baheri in Bareilly district, the SDM said.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat expressed grief at the loss of lives and asked Champawat District Magistrate Ahmad Iqbal to ensure proper treatment to the injured.

The dumper truck driver fled after the accident. The police have launched a search for him.