'The terrorists fired from the front and the right side of the bus. Most of those who died or were injured were sitting on the right side,' said Pallavi Abhyankar. In photo: Pilgrims arrive at Pahalgam after visiting the Amarnath cave. Photograph: (Reuters)
Pallavi Abhyankar's first thought was that firecrackers were going off near the bus in which she and other pilgrims were travelling
As gunshots rang out in the darkness on a deserted Kashmir road, Pallavi Abhyankar's first thought was that firecrackers were going off near the bus in which she and other pilgrims were travelling.
"It was only a few moments later that I realised the horror as I saw my fellow passengers hit by the terrorists' bullets," said 55-year-old Abhyankar.
The Maharashtra native was one of the lucky survivors in Monday night's terrorist attack in Anantnag district that left seven people dead, including six women, and injured 19 others.
The homemaker, who also runs music classes, said the bus driver's presence of mind saved many lives.
"Had it not been for the driver, the toll would have been more," she said.
The driver sped the bus away amid the firing and reached a safe distance out of harm's way, saving the lives of many of the piligrims on the bus.
The bus had over 50 pilgrims from Gujarat and Maharashtra, including 11 from Dahanu in Palghar district. Most of them were sleeping when their vehicle was attacked, she said.
"The terrorists fired from the front and the right side of the bus. Most of those who died or were injured were sitting on the right side," she said.
Abhyankar, who escaped unurt, is now on her way to Dahanu.
She said the bus, which left Srinagar in the afternoon, developed a flat tyre and stopped near Pampore. It resumed its journey at around 6.50pm.
"The firing happened between 8.20pm and 8.30pm," she said.
After the attack, Army personnel took them to a safe location. The injured, among whom was the tour arranger, were taken to hospital, she said.
The survivors flew out of Srinagar today at 10.15am by a special plane of the Indian Air Force and landed in Surat at around 1.30pm.
Mohanlal Sonkar, husband of Usha Sonkar who was killed in the terror attack, said his wife had called him yesterday.