Balasore, June 06, 2023: At least 40 passengers of the ill-fated Coromandel Express are said to be electrocuted by snapped overhead cables as they did not have any external injury. The cables reportedly snapped after the Yesvantpur-Howrah Express crashed into the derailed bogies of the Coromandel train in Odisha’s Balasore.
The claim made by a police officer, who oversaw the rescue operation, matches with the FIR that states electrocution as the cause of several deaths after live overhead cables fell on the compartments.
According to a report in Times of India, Government Railway Police (GRP) sub-inspector Papu Kumar Naik, in an FIR lodged on Saturday around 1am, stated: “Many passengers succumbed to injuries caused due to the collision and electrocution (after) coming in contact with overhead LT (low tension) line."
“While several bodies were disfigured beyond recognition, there were around 40 with no visible injury marks or bleeding from anywhere. Many of these deaths were presumably from electrocution," the police officer was quoted by TOI.
The report also quoted Purna Chandra Mishra, who retired as chief operations manager of East Coast Railway, as saying that it was possible that those electrocuted were in contact with some part of the bogies in that exact fraction of a second when the overhead electric cables touched the train.
According to the TOI report, the GRP had registered a case of death due to negligence (Section 304-A of the IPC) against “unidentified individuals" and appointed a DSP-ranked officer to lead the investigation into the train tragedy before CBI was called in.
Ranjeet Nayak, sub-divisional railway police officer of Cuttack, was entrusted with the probe on the basis of the complaint lodged around six hours after the accident, it stated.
Another report in TOI stated that top railway officials are once again stressing that the crash took place because of “deliberate interference” with the electronic interlocking system. This came as the CBI on Monday started its probe into the accident.
The report quoted their sources as saying that the initial probe by the Railways found some sort of “manual tinkering” was done with the “logic” of the interlocking system in the cabin at Bahanaga Bazar station, which oversees signalling on the stretch. The CBI will help ascertain the purpose of such tinkering with this “foolproof system”, they added.
The Railways, in a press conference on Sunday, stated that the triple train crash in Odisha’s Balasore around 6:55 am on June 2 was caused by an error in the electronic signaling system that led a train to wrongly change tracks and crash into a freight train.
Jaya Verma Sinha, a senior railway official, said the preliminary investigations revealed that a signal was given to the high-speed Coromandel Express to run on the main track line, but the signal later changed, and the train instead entered an adjacent loop line where it rammed into a freight loaded with iron ore.
The collision flipped Coromandel Express’s coaches onto another track, causing the incoming Yesvantpur-Howrah Express from the opposite side also to derail, she said.
The passenger trains, carrying 2,296 people, were not overspeeding, she said. Trains that carry goods are often parked on an adjacent loop line so the main line is clear for a passing train.
Verma said the root cause of the crash was related to an error in the electronic signaling system. She said a detailed investigation will reveal whether the error was human or technical.
Most such accidents in India are blamed on human error or outdated signaling equipment. About 22 million people ride 14,000 trains across India every day, traveling on 64,000 kilometers (40,000 miles) of track.