Four Keralites touring Kashmir and a local taxi driver were killed when their SUV skidded off the snow-covered road at Zoji La pass and plunged into a gorge along the Srinagar-Leh National Highway in Ganderbal district, said police.
Sonamarg Station House Officer Fayaz Ahamed identified the deceased as Sudheesh S (33) son of Sundaran, Anil R (33) son of Rajendran, Rahul K (28), son of Krishnan and Vignesh S (24), son of Shivam. All of them are from Nedungode village in Chittur in Palakkad district, he said.
Their friend Manoj M (25), son of Maravan, is critically injured and is being treated at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Science (SKIMS) at Soura in Srinagar, he said.
The driver, Ajaz Ahmad Awan of Kangan town in Ganderbal district, succumbed to his injuries at SKIMS, said the officer. The tour team from Palakkad arrived at Sonamarg from Srinagar and then went to Zoji La pass on Tuesday. "The accident happened when they were returning to Srinagar," said the SHO.
Daily-wage workers who loved to travel
They were said to be neighbours and avid travellers, and all are residents of Ward 12 (Manchira) in Nallepilly grama panchayat. "They left for Kashmir on train on November 30," said R Kishore Kumar, neighbour and councillor of Chittur municipality.
Shiju K Nedungode House told Onmanorama that the team had 13 members, including his younger brother Vinod.
They hired two Sumo cars from Srinagar to go to Zoji La Pass; one of the vehicle met with the accident. “Vinod is safe but we are not able to reach him because his phone is a pre-paid connection,” said Shiju. All 13 are daily wage labourers and save money to travel, he said.