‘A passenger screamed that there was a fire in S1 coach noticing smoke close to wheels’

After two weeks of investigation, the Government Railway Police (GRP) have come to a conclusion that the November 2 accident in which nine persons were killed on the tracks near Gotlam railway station in Vizianagaram district is due to wrong communication by a passenger, coupled with some unfortunate coincidences.

Many commuters of Alappuzha-Dhanbad Bokaro Express jumped out of the train from the S1, S2, and S3 coaches as someone had spread a word that there was fire in the S1 coach. The nine persons were mowed down by the Rayagada-bound Rayagada-Visakhapatnam-Vijayawada passenger, coming in the opposite direction on the adjoining track.

Talking to The Hindu here on Tuesday, GRP Superintendent Syam Prasad gave a sequential description of the events that led to the accident.

There were many unauthorised commuters, especially in the S1 coach, and one among them, who was squatting near the door, noticed some smoke coming out from below the train close to the wheels. According to a preliminary report of the technical committee, a little smoke can be seen at times due to friction of the wheels.

“Without having a proper look, this person screamed that there was a fire and this created all the commotion. The passengers pulled the chain and jumped into the adjoining track and what followed was a series of unfortunate coincidences,” said the SP. After the commuters pulled the chain, the train came to a grinding halt at about 3-km from Gotlam railway station and at a spot where there was a sharp bend ahead and one side of the track was blocked by an elevation.

“It is a double track route and the passengers were forced to jump on the adjoining track, which was the first unfortunate thing to happen,” said Mr. Syam.

The Alappuzha– Dhanbad Bokaro Express was running two hours late and the Rayagada-Visakhapatnam-Vijayawada passenger was on time, which was the second coincidence.

The incident happened after sunset and it was pitch dark outside, and to add to misfortune of those dead and injured, the sharp bend ahead obstructed the vision and people were not in a position to see what was coming from the opposite side on the adjoining tack.

The Alappuzha – Dhanbad Bokaro Express came to a halt at 6.38 p.m. and the Rayagada-Visakhapatnam-Vijayawada passenger approached the sharp bend at 6.40 p.m.

“ Seeing the passengers on the track just as the engine took the sharp bend, the driver did instantly apply the emergency brakes. The train was at a speed of 85 kmph and it covered a distance of 500 metres before it could stop. By that time it mowed down nine of the passengers from S1 bogie of the Bokaro express,” said Mr. Syam Prasad.