Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rail Workers Sought in Crash 4 Fled Scene of India Wreck

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rail Workers Sought in Crash 4 Fled Scene of India Wreck

Article excerpt

GAISAL, India -- While rescuers were still prying bodies from the twisted wreckage of two trains yesterday, police wanted to question four railway signal operators suspected of mistakenly sending one express train hurtling into the path of another.

At least 257 bodies with torn and bloodstained clothing have been pulled from the crumpled mass of steel, wood and debris strewn through a field in this remote corner of northeastern India.

The acrid smell of burnt flesh seeped from the destroyed, blackened carriages as rescuers tried to cut their way to at least 50 more trapped people, all feared dead.

Officials began to piece together just how a train traveling at 60 mph could have been diverted to a parallel track as a train was coming in the opposite direction.

Four signal operators working at the time of the accident fled. Three returned to work late yesterday, but one was still missing, officials said.

Senior railroad official V.K. Aggarwal told The Associated Press that the driver of the Avadh-Assam Express from New Delhi may have switched to the wrong track, driven four miles, then crashed head-on into the Brahmaputra Mail from Gauhati.

The collision occurred before dawn Monday near Gaisal Station, a small-town rail stop 310 miles north of Calcutta.

Many of the 2,500 passengers aboard the trains were sleeping at the time. The collision hurled one carriage over another, crushing travelers and causing a fire that burned others.

"I thought we were all dead," said Anil Kumar Shukla, one of the survivors. Shukla and six other members of his family had been booked on a carriage that was demolished, but they changed to a sleeper coach minutes before boarding the train.

India's railway minister announced his resignation yesterday, saying the nation had not devoted enough money to upgrading its train service.

"[The] accident cannot be excused," Railway Minister Nitish Kumar said in New Delhi. …

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