Misleading reports claim bus carrying LUMS students ‘fell off a cliff’

Bus actually crashed into oncoming vehicle then slipped into nearby ditch

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Claim: A bus carrying students from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) fell off a cliff near Skardu.

Fact: The bus, in fact, collided with a van head-on and then slipped downwards into a ditch less than 30 feet deep. In addition, the incident did not take place near Skardu but near Mansehra in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.

On 19 May 2022, Instagram page @graziapak posted an image about an accident involving a bus full of LUMS students on a trip to Pakistan’s northern areas, with the following text superimposed onto the image: “Multiple injuries reported as bus carrying students from the Lahore University of Management Science (LUMS) falls off a cliff near Skardu.”

The @graziapak post was accompanied by the following caption:

“According to reports, one of the tour buses carrying LUMS students, fell off a cliff while heading towards Skardu. As many as 27 students are said to have suffered minor to major injuries‼️”

The news was picked up by numerous outlets across social media platforms, including Instagram and Facebook. The parents and friends of the students, as well as others, were alarmed by the reports that claim the bus toppled over a cliff.

Fact or fiction?

The Oxford (Lexico), Collins, and Cambridge dictionaries all define “cliff” as a high area of land or steep rock face found especially at the edge of the sea, ocean or coast.

To ascertain the facts about the incident, Soch Fact Check spoke to two students who were on the trip and three officials of Rescue 1122, an emergency service that operates across the provinces of Punjab, Balochistan, and KP.

Maroof Taj, a student who was on the trip but in another bus, witnessed the aftermath of the crash. He told Soch Fact Check that the accident occurred when the bus carrying LUMS students collided with a Suzuki Bolan van.

There were more than 200 students on the trip, he said, and 25-30 of them were in the bus that collided with the van. “As far as we know, there were reports of three serious cases and four or five students sustaining major injuries,” he said. “There were no fatalities.”

Taj said the bus then slipped and toppled over from the slanted turn towards level ground approximately two floors in height below. “I only saw it once in passing as I was in a different bus and it was about 14-15 feet,” he said.

A video shared from the crash site shows the bus turned over sideways, with a crowd of people gathered around it. Someone on higher ground shot the video and they appear to be approximately less than 20 feet away.

Soch Fact Check also reached out to the Rescue 1122 officials, including two situated in a control room and one who was on the crash site.

Controller Ajmal, a Rescue 1122 official, said passengers in the bus, as well as the van, sustained injuries. “The bus collided with a ‘Carry Dabba’, [a word commonly used for Suzuki Bolan], and slipped off the road downwards,” he said.

“The slope on the side of the road was due to it being a motorway”, which are often surrounded by ditches on the edges, as is visible in this post. According to the official, the injured were shifted to King Abdullah Hospital and the Ayub Medical and Teaching Institution Abbottabad.

Ameen, an emergency rescue officer who was present on the crash site, said the ditch was not too low, just 30-35 feet deep. “It’s a one-way road so both [vehicles] collided head-on,” he said.

The Facebook page of ‘Rescue 1122 Mansehra’ said the “collision” between the bus — on its way from Lahore to Skardu — and the van occurred near Hazara University and five ambulances were dispatched to provide emergency services.

Another student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed to Soch Fact Check that the bus collided with the Suzuki Bolan as the former was “overtaking” and did not see the van coming from the front, with both vehicles toppling down into a ditch nearby following the collision.

There were about 27 students on the bus involved in the incident, the student said, adding that around 16 of the 27 received minor injuries and three, major injuries. “I don’t really know how high the cliff was [but] they asked us not to get off the bus; the girls stayed in [and] the boys got out,” the student said.

Lastly, numerous reports on social media stated that the accident occurred in or near Skardu, which is false as the rescue officials said it took place near Hazara University in Mansehra. Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan and Mansehra in the KP province are far apart — more than 450 kilometres. That is far enough to have flights scheduled between the two, while travelling by road from one location to the other takes 10 hours.

Soch Fact Check, therefore, concludes that while the accident did occur and students were injured, the bus did not, in fact, fall off a cliff near Skardu. The viral claims are misleading.

Virality

Soch Fact Check conducted a CrowdTangle analysis for the 18-24 May 2022 period using the following search terms:

  • “LUMS bus”
  • “LUMS Skardu”
  • “LUMS accident”
  • “LUMS Mansehra”

The first search term revealed 16,748 interactions across 21 posts on Facebook and 50,771 interactions across 10 posts on Instagram.

On Facebook, the second and third search terms turned up 20,013 interactions across 37 posts and 64 interactions across four posts, respectively, while on Instagram, there were close to 51,000 interactions across 10 posts and almost 19,000 interactions across four posts.

The fourth search term, on the other hand, revealed four Facebook posts, which garnered more than 60 interactions, and two Instagram posts with nearly 900 interactions.

We found through a TinEye Reverse Image Search that two Facebook pages — ‘Billboard Pakistan’ and ‘Glamiconic’ — used misleading images. Billboard Pakistan’s post features an image of the Gilgit-Skardu road (from Wikimedia Commons) and the image shared by Glamiconic is of another accident (from stock photography company Alamy).

Facebook page ‘BleedGreen.pk’ shared a photo allegedly of the incident but which is in fact a screenshot from a video posted by Pamir Times’ Facebook page in 2020; the image is visible at the 0:30 mark.

Misleading reports appeared here, here, here, here, here, and here, as well as here, here, and here on Twitter.

Conclusion: A bus carrying LUMS students on a trip to the northern areas of Pakistan did not fall off a cliff near Skardu. The bus collided with a Suzuki van and both vehicles subsequently slipped into a nearby ditch less than 30 feet deep. The incident did not take place near Skardu, but near Mansehra in the KP province.

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