28 electrocuted in India on bus on way to wedding

News below (per CNN). Please answer only if you know your circuit theory (sorry).

“As passengers began stepping down while holding the steel railings, the current passed to the ground to cause a jolting electric shock in the bus”

My question: What does “cause a jolting electric shock IN the bus” mean? Can I still get electrocuted if I stay put in my seat, sitting perfectly still, and not touching anything? Can this be caused by eddy currents, and/or rust across two different points on a bus-seat creating potential difference, inductance, capacitance, and what not to create a surface current on the seat for a passenger to get electrocuted, even if they are not touching any metal part of the bus to complete a circuit? Or do I have to touch something metal or some person who is getting electrocuted (not very likely to happen for 28 to get killed) in order to electrocute myself?

News clip from CNN:

“Twenty-eight wedding guests were electrocuted Friday as an overhead cable came in contact with their bus in central India, police said.

Twenty-three women, three men and two children died. Five passengers jumped to safety and suffered minor injuries. The bus driver was not injured.

The high-voltage wire touched an iron wardrobe on the roof of the bus as it stopped at Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh state, said top district administrator K.K. Khare.

As passengers began stepping down while holding the steel railings, the current passed to the ground to cause a jolting electric shock in the bus, Khare said”

Shocking! It’s surprising that no one noticed the first one or two people off the bus were electrocuted and something was not right. No chance of getting electrocuted while you are on the bus, surrounded by metal. One foot (or hand) on the bus and one on the ground completes the circuit. No current can flow if you are in the bus. Rubber tires insulate from grounding the circuit. If you jumped from the bus to the ground, you’d be OK. It’s touching the bus and the ground what completes the circuit and kills you.


Had the passengers stayed in the bus, or JUMPED off, they would have been safe. But the panicked herd followed each other stepping down and electrocuted themselves as their foot hit the ground while holding the “live” bus railing…

I want to answer also, where can I take my circuit theory test?

OP are you suprised that the press presents a story dealing with possible conductive paths a little wrong? for the last 40 years they have not been able to tell the difference between semi and full automatic weapons.

It appears YOU need to read up on circuit theory as all you all doing is throwing out terms you read somewhere, why complicate things with “eddy” current or inductance or rust? This simply involves making a complete circuit

The rubber tires don’t really matter in this case. Even if current is flowing from the wire, through the bus, and into the ground somehow, you will be okay on the bus (as long as it isn’t on fire). The metal of the bus conducts current well enough (has a low enough resistance) that not enough of a voltage differential would exist inside to bus to electrocute you.
Also, be aware that you wouldn’t actually have to touch the bus and the ground at the same time, only be close to both. I don’t know what voltage the line they hit was, but it must have been at least 10,000 or so volts. At that voltage, an arc will form before you actually touch something.

Yes, if the bus isn’t on fire, then the safest thing to do is to stay seated. If it were burning, then you would want to jump as far as you could from it, not step down.

Thanks for the replies. I knew I could get the correct answers here without doing all the hard work. :slight_smile: As tardis explained, I now realize the current flowing across 2 points inside the bus (say across seat) would be 0 or negligible because the potential difference would be most likely 0, even accounting for rust or some other charge buildup. No wonder I got a C in circuit theory. Thanks.

There is a difference in potential between the overhead line and earth. The earth acts as a giant capacitor (a reservoir). If one comes in contact with the overhead line and is touching the earth, the current will pass through the person. In your house, the black (or red or some color other than white or green) to the narrow slot on the outlet is the ungrounded or hot side. The white wire to the wide slot is the grounded or neutral side. If you touch the grounded side, you will not feel a thing. However, if you touch the ungrounded side, a difference in potential exists between this line and the earth and you complete the circuit. Usually, this shock isn’t fatal. However, the people on the bus that were holding onto the steel railings which were in contact with the high voltage line and stepped onto the earth completed the circuit.

For an experiment, take a neon test light which has a very high resistance. Insert one lead into the narrow slot and touch the other lead. The current flow is low enough that you won’t feel it, but the light will glow. Put the lead that was in the narrow slot into the wide slot and touch the other lead and the light will not glow.