In a gruesome tragedy, four children and a woman staffer of a private nursery school died when their van fell into a canal at Chakkai area in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala on Thursday, police said.
Five other children and the driver of the van were admitted to hospital, where the condition of one child was stated to be serious.
Three of the hapless children were boys and another a girl, who were on their way to a private kindergarten in Pettah in the city.
The van lying half-submerged in the polluted canal, carpeted with thick layers of 'African weeds', was first noticed by the crew of a bus that passed through the spot. They immediately informed the police, who with the help of local people, plunged into the rescue work.
Bodies of four children and the woman were soon taken out and rushed to a nearby hospital, where they were declared dead.
Preliminary assessment of the police, on an examination of the mishap spot, was that the vehicle swerved to side upon hitting a block of stone and slipped into the canal, as there was no protective barrier on the road.
According to local people, on most days, the Maruti Omni van used to pack as many as 15 children into it. But today, there were only nine children besides the woman attender and the driver. State Education Minister M A Bay, who rushed to the spot, said an inquiry would be ordered into the safety aspects of the school vehicles.