The bus with registration numbers T570 AAM, named Sabena, was travelling from Tabora to Mbeya, Tabora Regional Police Commander Anthony Rutta told The Guardian in a telephone interview.
He said the bus which was carrying more than 100 passengers, overturned at Kitunda village, Sikonge district in Tabora region, some 200 kilometres from Tabora township.
“The accident occured at between 12.00 noon and 14.00 hours, causing the death of 17 people on the spot and wounding 78 others,” the commander said.
Rutta explained that the 17 dead included six were men, six women and five children, four of them boys and one girl.
But the RPC whose report coincided with that of the Tabora regional administrative secretary, Kudra Mwinyimvua, said the condition of the 17 people out of the 78 injured ones was serious.
“They have been rushed to Kitete regional hospital and some are at Sikonge designated hospital,” he explained.
He said all the deceased were preserved at the Kitete regional hospital as efforts to identify their bodies got underway.
While earlier reports attributed the accident to breaking down of the steering rod, the police commander refused to comment, saying they were still conducting investigation to establish the cause of the accident, taking into account that the driver and the conductor of the bus had escaped.
When asked the exact number of the passengers, he said so far they were 95, if the deceased are added up with the wounded. “But there are some who were not injured and were not seen at the accident scene. So we think the bus could have been carrying more than 100 passengers,” he said.
Earlier the RAS, Mwinyimvua, told this paper that government officials worked tirelessly to ensure first aid was given to the victims.
“The regional team arrived here very early to offer support to the victims. We carried some to Kitunda health centre, others to Sikonge designated hospital and others have been sent to Kitete regional hospital,” she said.
The RAS also revealed that the bus was carrying some passengers who were not Tanzanians and that four of them were under police investigation.
“They are Congolese. We found them with identity cards showing their nationality. But they had no passports. We have however got a passport of their aunt who was guiding them, but sadly she also died,” she said.
Mwinyimvua explained that they also got a passport of another person from DR Congo but it was not immediately established whether the person was among the dead or the wounded or those who escaped from the scene.
She said when the four victims and suspects were interrogated, they said they came from Buja, DRC and were heading to Malawi.
Reached later for developments, the RPC said by yesterday afternoon, seven bodies of deceased had been identified.
He named them as police constable Kheri of the central police station in Tabora, Vitus Tulumanye, a student at SAUT Tabora branch, Farah Inga a Zimbabwe national who was working in Tabora, Ikamba Thadeo, Damalu Goma, Beatrice Kalinga, and one Madirisha.
The commander confirmed that the bus, Sabena was carrying more than 110 passengers and that the driver who was earlier reported to have run away had been arrested.
“He will appear in court after all procedures and investigations are complete,” said Rutta.
The driver of the bus Ali Nassoro said the source of the accident was a lorry, Fuso made which had parked at a corner. He said when he tried to avoid hitting it, the steering rod of his bus broke and the bus overturned.
He said the accident happened at 12.30 hours in an area with no communication network.
“We failed to communicate until when we got a person who went to Sikonge to report the accident,” he said.
The accident follows another in June this year in which 13 people were killed and 16 others injured after a lorry and a mini-bus collided at Mzalendo Igawilo, about 20 kilometres from Mbeya.
The minibus was heading to Kyela while the lorry was travelling from Malawi.
Eyewitnesses said the lorry slammed into the mini-bus after its brakes apparently failed as it descended a steep section of the road.