Safety engineers, who were part of the rescue special that steamed in from Bangalore to Penukonda in the wake of the Hampi Express accident, said the loss of lives could have been avoided if only the loco pilot had been alert.
Under such circumstances, the loco pilot should not have overlooked the danger signal that denied him entry to the station until the goods train moved out of Penukonda railway station, said experts after a preliminary examination of the accident spot.
Nevertheless, M.Y. Ratnam, a loco pilot with the SCR with Guntakal as headquarters, and co-pilot Balaraju escaped, probably because they jumped out of the train immediately after applying the emergency brake. Had they not applied the brake, the impact of the collision would have spread to more coaches increasing the toll, the safety engineers said.
While Mr. Ratnam was admitted to the Penukonda Government Hospital with severe injuries, the co-pilot escaped with minor injuries. Although there were rumours that the pilots had escaped from the spot, both were available at Penukonda.
Speaking to The Hindu, the guard of the Hampi Express, Bhagwan, said he had no clue that the train had actually jumped a danger signal that denied entry into Penukonda station.
He said that he was among the first to run into the station for help and denied rumours that himself or the pilots tried to escape.
Meanwhile, experts in the signalling system for the railways at Guntakal said an enquiry into the incident would bring out the truth.
They denied any possibility of the driver having been under the influence of alcohol, as all pilots were subjected to a breath analyzer test and that unless they passed it, they would not be allowed for duty.