The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bus with students crushed at level-crossing

Jalpaiguri, April 27: Three students on their way to collect their results and the helper of the bus carrying them were killed in a collision with a train at an unmanned level-crossing near Banarhat, about 70 km from here, this morning.

About 64 others, mostly students, were injured when 625-Up Siliguri-Alipurduar Passenger ploughed into the bus ferrying them from Diana Tea Estate to their schools and pushed it into a chasm by the tracks.

Lina Tigga and Pinky Mal, both 13, and Dayal Sanga, 25, were killed on the spot.

Pappu Bagdas, a 12-year-old student, succumbed on the way to Jalpaiguri Sadar Hospital. They were students of Adarsh Vidyamandir and Balka Parimal Hindi High School at Banarhat.

Residents around the mishap site near Red Bank Tea Estate, army personnel from the Binnaguri cantonment and police from Banarhat rushed to rescue.

The Dooars branch of the Indian Tea Association pooled in ambulances from the nearby gardens to shift the injured to hospitals. Nineteen students have been admitted to the Birpara State General Hospital and the army is tending to 28 at Binnaguri.

Among 17 students brought to the Jalpaiguri hospital, the condition of 10 was said to be serious. They were shifted to the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital. The medical college authorities later described their condition as “very critical”.

The driver of the bus, Ajay Oraon, a resident of nearby Gandrapara Tea Estate, fled after the accident.

The Northeastern Frontier Railway blamed the driver of the bus for the accident. “He did not heed the warning of the guard posted at the unmanned crossing. He was in an apparent hurry as the children were going to receive their results. The accident is (a result of) pure negligence on the part of the driver,” a public relations officer said from the railway’s Maligaon headquarters.

Jalpaiguri superintendent of police Siddh Nath Gupta said a probe has begun and searches are on to capture the driver.

The accident unplugged a burst of resentment against the railway for not deploying personnel at level-crossings.

Alipurduar divisional railway manager Pampa Babbar and other railway officials were faced with demonstrations at the Jalpaiguri hospital.

A pall of silence wrapped the Diana estate as it mourned the loss of its three children and prayed for the injured.

“All of them are from our garden. We had never imagined that such an incident could happen. Drivers of vehicles that carry children to schools should be alert,” said Kishore Bhujel, a resident, as he watched a bulldozer clearing the debris.

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