If sources in the railways are to be believed, the collision between Vidarbha Express and a CST-bound local train at Umbarmali near Kasara station on July 19 could have been averted, provided the motorman of the derailed local wasted no time in setting up flashers on the track ahead to warn the approaching passenger train of danger.
Sources said that motorman RK Roy had about five minutes to place the emergency flasher on the tracks, which would have given the driver of the Vidarbha Express ample time to stop and thereby avert the mishap. Senior officials from the railways confirmed that Roy had around five minutes to implement emergency measures and not just 1.17 minutes as claimed earlier.
The CST-bound local left Kasara station at 9.16 pm and covered five kilometres before hitting a boulder that had slipped onto the tracks, resulting in 11 coaches derailing.
The local would have taken no more than five or six minutes to cover the five kilometres to the mishap point.
“The accident took place at 9.31 pm and the local left from Kasara at 9.16 pm. It would have taken a few minutes to cover the distance to the collision spot. There is no chance of the motorman having just a minute and few seconds to set up the flasher,” said a railway official on condition of anonymity.
After the accident, railway officials maintained that there were no passengers aboard the local at the time the Vidarbha Express collided with the derailed compartment. They had also said that the motorman had just one minute and 17 seconds to react after hitting the boulder and before the Vidarbha Express collision. The stationmaster and other staff at Kasara station confirmed that the CST-bound local departing at 9.16 pm carries 60 to 70 passengers each day on average.
MiD DAY spoke to officials and a few passengers to elicit the truth.
Rashida Kalim Sheikh, who suffered internal and external injuries said, “I was travelling with my son and aunt and started from Kasara. We were just settling down when the train began to sway from left to right and we were injured.”
Nazia Rafiq boarded the train from Kasara with other family members and was proceeding to Titwala.
She said, “The accident happened just five minutes after departure from Kasara station. We got off the train immediately and were about to call family members when a train came from the opposite direction and hit our train. A portion of the tracks or some such material hit our ‘daadi’ killing her on the spot. There was minimum of eight to10 minutes between the derailment and the collision.”
A senior official of the railways said, “All passengers could not have left the derailed local within one minute.” He also confirmed that the local was running according to schedule on the day of accident.
Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) Chetan Bakshi is conducting an inquiry.
“I have come to know that even the CRS team has found a difference of four minutes between the collisions. We are verifying all data received from the spot will submit a report soon,” Bakshi said.
Central Railway PRO A K Singh, said, “After the local derailed, the motorman put up the emergency flasher and was trying to light a firecracker, but the Vidarbha Express reached the spot before he could do so. The driver of Vidarbha Express applied the emergency brakes after seeing the flasher.”