The Forest Department on Saturday registered a case against the two loco pilots of the train that knocked down three elephants near Walayar in Coimbatore district on Friday night.
Main loco pilot M.T. Subair, of Kozhikode, and assistant loco pilot M.C. Akhil, of Thrissur, were booked under Section 9 of the Wildlife Protection Act.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden Shekhar Kumar Niraj said the loco pilots were released after their statements were recorded and they gave an undertaking to cooperate in the investigation. He said a Forest Department team from Coimbatore was sent to Palakkad to get the microchip of the speed recorder of the locomotive. “I have been in constant touch with senior officers of the Indian Railways throughout, and we are going to reach out to them and others to prevent such accidents in future,” he said.
Conservator of Forests S. Ramasubramanian said the case was registered after preliminary investigation.
The Mangaluru-Chennai Express (12602) hit three three elephants on the A line between Walayar and Ettimadai around 9 p.m. on Friday. A senior official told The Hindu that preliminary findings showed the loco pilots had operated the train “negligently” on the stretch. It was a straight track and they could have seen the elephants moving on the side, the official said.
“The Railways is extending its best cooperation to the Forest Department. Investigation is in progress. At the moment there is no evidence supporting the claim of negligence on the part of the loco pilots. It is being discussed only as a possibility,” Southern Railway said in reply to a tweet on the Forest Department’s decision to register a case against the loco pilots. Forest veterinarians A. Sukumar and Rajesh Kumar autopsied the carcasses of the elephants: a female elephant aged around 25, a ‘makna’ (tuskless male) aged around 15, and female calf aged around six.
Tension prevailed at the MEMU Shed, Palakkad, when a five-member team of the Forest Department from Coimbatore, which visited the shed for investigation, was picketed by members of railway unions and association of loco pilots.