POKHARA/ROLPA, July 8: Preliminary investigation by security authorities has blamed accident-prone area and sluggish rescue work for the death of construction workers in the tragic tipper accident in upper Mustang on Friday.
A total of 19 construction workers and the driver of the tipper lost their lives in the mishap. Security officers claim that 15 workers died on the spot after the accident but the other five died as they could not get medical attention on time. The accident site is 46 km away from the district headquarters Jomsom but the first helicopter reached there for the rescue work only after three hours of the accident. That helicopter airlifted three of the injured to the Pokahara-based Manipal Hospital.
An army helicopter which arrived a bit later airlifted nine of the injured to Pokhara. The ill-fated tipper Ba 2 Ka 2219 skidded off the road and fell some 60 meters down into a ravine at Syangboche. As per the officials deployed in the rescue work, five of the workers lost their lives as they could not be provided with treatment on time. "If the accident site was near a human settlement, the death toll would not have been so high. At least five of the workers could have been saved if the rescue workers had reached the accident site on time," said a security personnel, seeking anonymity.
The district based security committee held a meeting after the accident and sent a letter to the West Regional Administration urging to send helicopters. The regional administration sent the letter to the provincial government and the home ministry. The home ministry then forwarded the letter to the defense ministry and by the time the army helicopter reached the site, it had already been three hours of the accident. The helicopter reached the accident site at around 4:30 pm while the accident had occurred at around 1:30 pm.
The police station at Ghami is just 20 km away from the accident site but still the police reached there in the evening. There was no helipad for the helicopters, so the workers had to make a helipad and signal to them to land by lighting fire. "High winds posed problem for the helicopter during landing but still somehow they landed. If not then there would have been more deaths," added the officer. Even the medical team could not reach the site on time. According to locals, it would have been if government bodies had prioritized the rescue work instead of following the lengthy legal procedures.
Rolpa and Dang grief-stricken
The locals of Thabang have been heartbroken after losing nine villagers who had gone to Mustang for construction work. Reportedly, seven of the deceased are from Thabang-5 while the other two are from Sunchhahari Rural Municipality.
The dead bodies of the 15 workers were carried to the headquarters Jomsom after 20 hours on Saturday morning. On Friday, the dead bodies of only five workers were lifted to Jomsom as the helicopters were engaged in rescuing the injured. The dead bodies have been currently kept in Rolpa's headquarters for postmortem.
Meanwhile, the dead bodies of six workers have been airlifted to Dang. Ram Prasad Gharti, acting chief of the District Police Office, said that four of the dead are from Dang while the other two are from Kailali and Kapilvastu. "We have conducted the postmortem and some of the dead bodies have already been handed over to the family members while some will be handed tomorrow," said Gharti.