Mumbai: Alert driver saves schoolkids

Mumbai: An alert driver helped two school children just in the nick of time to escape unhurt after their school van caught fire near Palaspe railway crossing in Panvel, Navi Mumbai, on Tuesday morning.

The incident occurred at 6.20 am when the driver of the CNG-driven Omni van of DAV School noticed, in his rear-view mirror, smoke emanating in the back of the vehicle. Using his wits, Sunil Joshi immediately vacated the van.

And even before the driver could call up the school authorities, the van had caught fire and was gutted within minutes. Thankfully, no casualties were reported.

The Kalamboli Police are investigating the matter and have summoned the owner of the school van, to check whether the vehicle was being properly maintained.

The police said preliminary information indicated the CNG cylinder of the van had exploded, which led to the fire. "We suspect there may have been some leak of gas which resulted in the fire but will wait for experts to validate the theory," a police officer said.

In 2009, four students had died when their school bus caught fire in Panvel while over 20 others had suffered burn injuries. The Supreme Court has laid down guidelines to ensure safety of schoolchildren.

Here are a few important ones: A fire extinguisher is an absolute must in the bus; the school name and phone number also must be written. School buses must have a first aid kit; the windows of the bus must be fitted with horizontal grills, so that emergency evacuation is possible. There are no van-specific guidelines.

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