JAIPUR, India – A large truck crammed with Hindu pilgrims crashed into a gorge in northwestern India on Friday night, killing at least 85 people and injuring 64, police said.
The truck driver lost control while taking a sharp turn in Nagbavji, a village more than 350 miles southwest of New Delhi, said Rajiv Dusot, the inspector-general of police.
The truck smashed through a protective wall on the highway and hurtled 80 feet into the gorge, Dusot told The Associated Press. It carried at least 149 people.
Rescuers recovered 85 bodies overnight, using cranes and searchlights, Dusot said Saturday. Another 64 people were hospitalized with injuries, three of them in critical condition, he added.
The Press Trust of India news agency earlier said the pilgrims had crammed themselves into the large paneled truck and a walled flatbed trailer. But Dusot said the pilgrims were traveling in the truck, normally used to transport containers.
Its owner, Gopal Paliwal, had offered a free ride to the villagers, Dusot said.
The pilgrims from three adjacent villages were on their way to the Ramdev temple, revered by both Hindus and Muslims, for an annual pilgrimage. Nearly 250,000 people visit the shrine during the 10-day pilgrimage in September every year.
This year the festival is scheduled to start Sept. 13, but pilgrims usually arrive several days in advance.
The temple is especially popular with poor and low-caste Hindus because the temple deity, Baba Ramdev, is believed to be the patron of the downtrodden.
Overcrowded vehicles — both buses and trucks — are a major danger in India, and road accidents caused by reckless driving, aging vehicles and bad roads are common.