S.Vijay Kumar and S.Vydhianathan
“Unidentified” person drove suburban EMU at high speed resulting in a head-on collision
Condition of five injured persons, including a couple of women, said to be critical
CHENNAI: Four passengers were killed and 11 others injured when an “unidentified” person hijacked a suburban train and drove it at high speed, resulting in a head-on collision with a goods train hauling empty oil wagons at Vyasarpadi Jiva railway station here early on Wednesday.
The condition of five of those injured, including a couple of women, was said to be critical.
According to railway sources, the collision took place minutes after the suburban train rolled out of the Moore Market Complex (near Central Railway Station) at around 4.50 a.m. The Electrical Multiple Unit (EMU) jumped the red signal and took the wrong line. The train sped past the Basin Bridge Junction, the next scheduled stop, and rammed the goods train.
A huge ball of fire engulfed two coaches immediately after the collision. The other coaches were thrown off the track.
Fire fighters rushed to the scene, put out the flames and began rescuing passengers along with Government Railway Police and Railway Protection Force personnel.
The first coach, including the driver’s cabin or the motor-cab, was ripped apart. The impact of the collision was such that a major portion of the Vyasarpadi Jiva station, foot over-bridge and railway track was damaged. The driver’s cabin was flung metres away.
Investigators were unable to confirm whether the suspect was among the deceased. Two of the four bodies were badly crushed and trapped in the mangled remains of a coach.
The driver and guard of the goods train escaped with minor injuries as they jumped out.
Some persons standing on the platform were among the injured. They were shifted to the Perambur railway hospital.
An intelligence agency official said they had warned the GRP, RPF and railway authorities of the possibility of sabotage on railway premises by sympathisers of Eelam Tamils and Muslim fundamentalists.
M.S.Jayanth, who is holding additional charge as General Manager of Southern Railway, said it appeared that the suspect was well-versed with the operation of EMU. It required four keys to operate an EMU. How he managed to get the keys was a mystery. Commissioner of Railway Safety K.J.S.Naidu would conduct an enquiry.
Southern Railway has preferred a complaint with the police that an “unauthorised” person started the train and drove it in a rash and negligent manner leading to the incident.
The Perambur railway police have registered a case under various provisions of the IPC, including Section 304 (A) (Causing death by negligence), Superintendent of Police (Railways), S.Manoharan, said.
Another suburban train and the Mettupalayam-Chennai Bluemountain Express were some distance ahead of the accident scene, approaching Chennai, on the same track. “The speed of the EMU service at the time of the collision was 92 kmph. The goods train was pushed behind by about 200 metres from the collision spot. One 140-tonne crane was moved in for relief and restoration works. The motorman (driver) and guard of the train had not taken charge when the train was hijacked. We hope to restore normal train services by Wednesday night,” Chief Mechanical Engineer V.Carmelus told The Hindu.
Mr.Carmelus said the Station Master of Basin Bridge Junction had noticed that there was neither a motorman nor guard in the speeding train, and alerted the control room.
“We could have stopped the train by switching off the power supply…but there was hardly any time for that,” he said.
According to Inspector General of Police (RPF) G.M.P.Reddy, suburban train platforms are not covered by the surveillance camera network.
Three of the deceased were identified as Joseph Antonyraj (40) of Rajamangalam in Villivakkam, Arockianathan, an employee of the Railway Hospital at Erode, and Mohanraj (35) of Avadi. The identity of the fourth deceased is yet to be established.
The police suspect he was the person who drove the train.
Director-General of Police K.P.Jain issued orders later in the night transferring the case to CB-CID for investigation.