A loco pilot and a truck driver were killed instantly on Monday afternoon when the Chickballapur-Yeshwanthpur passenger train rammed a granite-laden truck at an unmanned railway crossing near Devanahalli opposite the ITC Filtrona factory, about 40 km from here.

While the loco pilot was identified as S. Suresh Kumar (34) hailing from Katpadi in Tamil Nadu, the identity of the truck driver is yet to be established.

The 46-kilometre railway track between Chickballapur and Yelahanka has 36 crossings of which over half are unmanned, according to Railway sources.

Naveen Kumar (21), a security employed at ITC Filtrona, said the truck driver tried to slip past the level-crossing as the train was approaching. “The train was approaching with horns blaring. But the truck driver continued to push ahead,” he said.

According to S. Kumar (47), another eyewitness, there was a sickening sound of metal grating followed by the sound of some heavy objects falling.

“When I got close to the wreck, I saw the loco pilot buried under the large granite blocks that the truck was carrying. The truck driver had been thrown out of the vehicle and the body was lying near the railway tracks,” he said.

It took rescue teams over two hours to extract the loco pilot's body from the wreckage.

General Secretary of the All India Loco Running Staff Association (South Western Railway) C. Sunish explained that the train was a Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU).

Divisional Railway Manager S. Mani said that warning boards had been put up near the level-crossing asking drivers to stop five metres from the tracks and ascertain if there was an approaching train.

Ironically, the Railways has built a guard house at the crossing and is planning to introduce a manually operated gate. “We were planning to deploy a guard there by April,” said Mr. Mani.

However, Mr. Sunish blamed the railway management for the accident. In a release, he said that accidents at unmanned railway crossings are on the rise.

“Recently, the High Level Safety Review Committee, headed by Anil Kakodkar, submitted a report to the Railway Minister recommending that all level-crossing gates be removed and flyovers or underbridges be provided,” the release said.

According to locals, trucks and other heavy vehicles have started taking the route across the railway track there to avoid paying at the BIAL tollgate.

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