Switches on flasher light before he collapsed, driver of train from opposite direction alerts authorities

When motorman S. Manohar (48) ignored his fever and signed up for duty on Thursday to operate the suburban service from Gummudipoondi to Chennai, little would he have known what fate had in store for him.

Within minutes of leaving Gummidipoondi at 3.40 p.m., Manohar mst have developed extreme unease. Kavaraipettai, the next stop, was barely a few minutes away but the world around him must have blacking out too rapidly for him to make it to the station.

What the loco pilot managed to do in the next few moments probably saved the lives of scores of commuters on train GM 42032.

In what his colleagues and Railway administrators describe as a heroic act, Manohar brought the train to a stop, disengaged cabin controls and switched on the flasher light before he collapsed.

The emergency flasher caught the attention of V. Balachandran, the motorman who was manning the GM 42029 from Chennai to Gummidipoondi on the other line. The loco pilot stopped his train and entrusted the controls with the guard before going over to inspect the other train’s cabin where he found the motorman lying unconscious.

Balachandran alerted the Station Master at Kavaraipettai of the emergency and sought immediate signal clearance to bring the train there. Railway staff at Kavaraipettai arranged an ambulance through 108 and took Manohar to the Railway Hospital in Perambur. Manohar’s wife reportedly told doctors that her husband had ignored her pleas to stay back and take rest as he was running a fever. The same night, he died.

The previous day, Manohar was on night duty as standby at Chennai Central. Those on waiting duty would be assigned to take over in cases where someone else falls sick or is unable to report for other reasons. EMU services begin as early as 1.20 a.m. with a train from Beach to Arakkonam followed by other pre-sunrise schedules to Tiruvallur and Ponneri.

“In spite of sickness, Manohar had opted for overtime duty as he needed the extra allowances to get over a financial difficulty,” a Railwayman said.

Sources say that there was a 45-minute delay for the ambulance to turn up. Treatment for the patient was delayed by almost another hour as the ambulance had to weave through heavy traffic to reach the Railway Hospital in Perambur.

“By the time the patient [Manohar] was taken into the ICU, precious time had been lost,” a Railway doctor said.

“It looks like the patient had a massive heart seizure or an acute heat stroke while at the controls of the train. The post mortem report is awaited,” he added.

On Saturday, Southern Railway saluted the “duty consciousness” of Manohar, who had joined the Railways in 1991, and the presence of mind shown by Balachandran.