“My father Bhimayya Shahabadkar spoke to me over the phone at 12.58 AM saying that his berth has been confirmed by the Travelling Ticket Examiner and he was going to bed…..those were the last words I heard from my father…” said traumatised Saroja on the phone from Kothacheravu Railway Station in Anantpur district.
Mr Shahabadkar who was a former member of the Gulbarga Zilla Panchayat was among a family group of more than 50 persons who had gone to Bangalore to attend a marriage and were returning to Sedam near Gulbarga in the ill-fated Bangalore-Nanded Express train on Friday.
According to Satish Reddy, who had accompanied Mr Shahabadkar, tickets of most of the group members were not confirmed and they had boarded the train without confirmation. While all others in the group got into the unreserved and second class reserved compartments and occupied the available seats, Mr Shahabadkar got into the three-tier air conditioned coach in Bangalore.
Mr Shahabadkar has been identified by his daughter based on personal belongings. Mr Satish Reddy said that the bogie caught fire some time around 3.00 am on Saturday and was burning for nearly one hour before any help could arrive on the spot to put down the fire. There are unconfirmed reports that most of the victims were from Raichur, Gulbarga and Bidar districts.
According to Bidar MP and former Chief Minister N Dharam Singh, some of the victims of the fire accident were proceedings to Nanded to visit the famous gurudwara. Mr Singh left for Bidar to be in touch with the relatives of the victims and provide them all the required help. Mr Singh expressed his shock over the incident and offered his condolences to the families of those who had lost their dear ones in the accident.
While most of the passengers who were alerted about the fire by the coach attendant managed to escape by moving into other coaches, 23 persons were caught inside and burnt to death. Of the injured the condition of one child was reported to be very serious. Four of the severely injured passengers were undergoing treatment at Anantpur Hospital.
Mr Kharge said that the Railway Board Chairman Arunendra Kumar and Member (Electrical) of the Railway Board Khulbushan who have been asked to investigate the matter would be submitting their report to him (the Minister) within five days the exact reason for the fire.