An investigation into the death of a guard, who was found missing while on duty on a superfast express and then found along the track near Gudiyatham in Southern Railway, has thrown up safety issues in brake vans.
Senior railway officials who probed the circumstances that led to the death of B. Minimol concluded that she had an accidental fall, but recommended that cross bars and handles be installed in brake vans since guards who are short may not use the handle atop the doors.
The inquiry committee has also called for fixing door stoppers or hooks when the doors are left open when the train is on the run, sources in Southern Railway told The Hindu .
On August 16 this year, the station masters of Valathoor and Melpatti reported that the guard of the Guwahati-Bengaluru Superfast Express (12510) had failed to exchange signals. When the tri-weekly train was forced to stop at Pachakuppam, the railway staff could not find Minimol in the brake van.
An alert was sent out to the Gudiyatham station where Minimol was last seen exchanging signals. Keyman Gautham Kumar, who was on patrol duty, informed officials that the body of the guard was found along the track with a green flag. Para-medical staff arrived in an ‘108’ ambulance, found her with a grievous head injury and confirmed that she was dead.
Southern Railway constituted an inquiry committee, comprising senior officials, to investigate the death of Minimol. The guard coach was detached from the train to check whether the door lock, hook and hand rails were in good condition. The committee submitted its report, which was accepted by the competent authority.
The committee recommended that additional handles and crossbars be provided in the brake van doorway. Guards were told to ensure safety amenities were in working condition before taking charge. The investigators also noted that junior goods train guards should not be booked for duty on superfast express trains, the sources said.
Though there were reports that Minimol was visibly stressed a day before her death and had expressed difficulties in performing duty continuously without adequate rest, the report did not go into the details of her working hours in the days before August 16.
Cause of death
The inquiry officials said in their report that after exchanging signal from the right side main door of the brake van with the station master of Gudiyatham, Minimol moved to the left side door, which was closed, according to the statement of the pointsman. She opened the door to exchange signals with the locopilot to ensure the safe passage of the train on a curve. “While trying to exchange signals from the open door, she might have lost grip of the handle and she could have lost her balance and fallen down...,” the report said.