Eyewitnesses, who sustained burn injuries in Tamil Nadu Express train fire, gave their statements before the statutory inquiry of Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) Dinesh Kumar Singh at Narayana Hospital here and their experiences indicated short-circuit was the most probable cause of the mishap.
CRS Dinesh Kumar Singh along with his staff took statements from nearly eight injured survivors and their co-passengers at the hospital on second and final day of inquiry on Friday. Sukhdev Singh, a native of Amritsar, could not speak as his condition continued to be critical.
Meanwhile, M.V.Sambasiva Rao, 34 years, a resident of T.Nagar in Chennai, succumbed to burns at a private hospital in Chennai around noon. A native of Krishna district in AP, Rao was a businessman while his wife Jhansi is software professional. With this, death toll rose to 33 as per the railway officials. The local police officials said the toll went up to 29, as they did not count the four badly burnt bodies trapped in an irretrievable condition inside the coach.
Eyewitnesses, who got down the coach a bit late, said flames spread first in the upper portion. Kumud Kumar Bansal, 56 years, a stationery retailer from Agra and convalescing at Nayarana Hospital told the CRS that before he got down from S-12 coach, he saw flames in the middle of S-11 coach. His daughter Prashansha, who escaped unhurt, said she suffered breathlessness and the coach had become hot. She too said she had noticed flames in upper parts of the coach first. Veena, a resident of Madurai, who was struggling to speak, said when she woke up she saw a berth light exploding into flames. Rekha, from Dayalunagar in Chennai, said she felt discomfort in chest because of smoke. Her relative Anil Kumar, who escaped unhurt said he opened windows to find that the train was still running and he along with some others pulled the chain on seeing smoke. The flames in S-11 were spreading through vestibules to adjacent S-10 and S-12 coaches when fire personnel started extinguishing fire at 4.31 a.m., said V. Srinivasulu Reddy.
When CRS sought his assessment of cause, Mr. Reddy said only investigation could unravel that but certainly the impact of fire was intense especially in middle portion berths.