He first crossed the signal in yellow and then ignored red light

Distraction caused by a mobile phone used by the engine driver is suspected to have led to the train accident near Arakkonam on September 13.

Police investigation has revealed that the driver, A. Rajkumar, crossed the signal first in yellow and then in red, sources in the Railway Police have said.

Eleven persons were killed and several others injured in the collision between the Chennai Beach-Vellore Cantonment Mainline Electrical Multiple Unit (MEMU) and the Arakkonam-Katpadi passenger train between Melpakkam and Chitheri railway stations in Vellore district.

On Thursday night one of the victims, Kannan (63) of Kancheepuram district, succumbed to injuries at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital here. Since there were no family members attending to Kannan at the hospital, his body was kept at the mortuary after post-mortem, the sources said.

Instead of slowing down to below 50 kmph on seeing the yellow signal, Rajkumar, an ‘A' Grade driver, allegedly crossed at a speed of 97 kmph and then jumped the red signal. While traversing a curve, he saw the last vehicle of the passenger train at a distance of about 150 metres.

“It appears that he made no attempt to stop the train...he just took his hand off the speed lever. The MEMU was speeding at 90 kmph at the time of the collision. Since the passenger train was moving slowly, the damage was less. Rajkumar was speaking on his mobile phone moments before the accident,” a police officer who perused documents and statements of witnesses told The Hindu on Friday.

Call details

After analysing the call details of the driver's mobile phone, investigators confirmed that he was speaking with his friend for several minutes just before the collision. “Rajkumar's claims that he did not use his mobile phone and that he crossed the signal in green were disproved based on documentary evidence and expert opinion. There is a standing instruction from the railways that engine drivers should not use mobile phones unless in case of emergency,” the officer said.

Final stages

When contacted Inspector General of Police (Railways) Sunil Kumar said that the police had obtained the statements of experts and the case was in the final stages of completion. “We will arrive at a conclusive finding soon.”

The police, who initially registered a case under the provisions of Section 304 (A) (causing death due to negligence), could alter the charges based on the findings that may include the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

The enquiry report of the Commissioner of Railway Safety also pointed to negligence on the part of the engine driver, a source said.

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