In a multiple collision, four persons – two drivers - were killed on the spot and 7 others sustained serious injuries when a speeding goods train rammed a private van and a school van, which were on the track following a collision at the manned level crossing at Mettukadu at Vaikundam near here on Friday.

The school van, fortunately without students, reportedly hit the private van, which was at that time waiting at the closed level crossing for the freight train from Erode to Jolarpettai to cross. The school van pushed the van from behind, which broke through the level crossing gate. Both the vehicles came to a halt on the track.

Before the drivers could move the vehicles, the oncoming train hit their vehicles killing Boopathi (30) of Unchakadu, Palanivel (40) of Avarampalayam, Selvan (30) of Vaikundam and N Nagaraj from Rengapalayam.

The train dragged the vans to a distance of more than half a km before coming to a halt.

One of the train drivers Balakrishnan lost two fingers in his right hand when a mangled sheet severed them off.

Senior officials, including Collector K. Maharabushanam, Superintendent of Police N.M. Mylvahanan and Salem Railway Divisional Manager P.N. Ram rushed to the spot and conducted an enquiry. Trains in the Salem-Coimbatore sector suffered no significant detentions.

Preliminary investigation pointed out that while the private van with a few passengers was proceeding to Vadukapatti, the school van was reportedly driven by a learner who lost control of the vehicle.

“Since the train was cruising at a moderate speed, others in the private van could jump out and escape. Otherwise, the toll would have been higher,” said a senior Railway official.