Pravin Randive was supposed to join his colleagues at Dapoli agriculture university when they set out for their weekend picnic at Mahabaleshwar on Saturday morning.

He could not join them as he was not well, but was constantly checking their WhatsApp group where others were posting updates.

Then suddenly there was silence. Around 12.30 p.m., he learnt that the bus carrying his colleagues had fallen into a gorge off Ambenali ghat near Poladpur, 180 km from here. Of the 34 people in the bus, all but one died.

“We were going to leave at 6.30 a.m. But when they called me I said I can not make it because I am not well,” Mr. Randive told reporters.

His colleagues kept posting pictures of the scenery along the route on the WhatsApp group. “The last message came around 9.30 a.m. They were supposed to stop for breakfast. When I messaged later, there was no response. We came to know about the accident around 12.30 p.m.,” he said.

All those who died were in the age group of 30-45 years and some of them were unmarried, Mr. Randive said.

Sole survivor

The sole survivor is Prakash Sawant. Speaking to reporters in Poladpur, Mr. Sawant said mud and loose stones on this skippery stretch of the ghat road caused the bus tyres to skid.

“The bus veered to the left and fell into the gorge before we could understand what was happening. Trees arrested the fall some way down. I had managed to jump out in time. I climbed my way up somehow,” he said. When he reached the road, he saw that a huge crowd of people had gathered. “One of them gave me a mobile phone. I called up the police control room and informed them,” he said.

Originally, 40 people were supposed to go on the trip to Mahabaleshwar, the famous hill station town in Western Maharashtra, but some of them opted out at the last moment because the bus was small and there was no space, he said.

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