| The mangled bus lies on the tracks on Friday. Picture by Subir Kar
Suri, Sept. 6: Nine persons were killed when a goods train rammed into a bus carrying pilgrims to Kalighat in Calcutta at a level crossing here.
According to witnesses, the speeding bus overtook waiting vehicles and crashed through the boom of the level crossing around 3.45 am. A goods train boomed into the rear of the bus moments later, flinging it across the tracks.
Residents and personnel from Suri station rushed to extricate the injured.
Such was the impact, a woman identified as Nila Devi, 45, was snared in the cow-catcher of the train’s engine and was discovered at Chimpai station, where the train came to a halt. She died on way to the hospital.
“I had just come to the level-crossing to check whether the booms were in place when I saw two buses speeding towards the gate, one of them just did not stop,” said Maguni Naik, the gatekeeper.
The bus was flung over 20 feet across the tracks. Five of the passengers died before medical aid arrived. Four of the dead were women. Most of the victims were sleeping at the time of the crash and those who survived were too stunned to speak.
The two buses had set off from Vaishali in Bihar on Wednesday on a pilgrimage trip. The passengers had been to Deoghar and were coming to Calcutta via Tarapith in Birbhum.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee called minister of state for panchayats Dhiren Sen and asked him to oversee the treatment of the injured in the civil hospital here.
“The chief minister called me in the morning. We are trying our best and the zilla parishad has arranged for food and water for the victims,” Sen said. There are 20 women among the injured and four of them are in a critical condition, he added.
Eastern Railway general manager S.K. Sengupta arrived with senior officials and arranged for a special coach to send the passengers of the second bus back to Bihar. “It is a very unfortunate incident, we will have a thorough inquiry into it,” he said.
The police said the driver, who is absconding, was either drunk or had fallen asleep and lost control.
In the civil hospital, two-year-old Sourav and five-year-old Madhu are yet to be told that both their parents have died. “Both Devanti and Mohan Mahato are dead. How do I tell these two little ones that they are orphans now' We left our villages on a pilgrimage and this is our fate,” said Sharda Devi, one of the lucky passengers.
Besides Nila, Devanti and Mohan, Puneet Roy, 34, Shyamsundar Bhagat, 30, Saraswati Devi, 45, Lakhsmidar Kumar, 10, and Klebong Roy, 55, were killed. One of the bodies is yet to be identified.