New Delhi: Like any other day, the children of Divine Mission School in Kushinagar waved to their parents and boarded their van on Thursday – only this time they never reached.
The bright yellow van carrying the children tried to cross an unmanned railway crossing at Behpurva where it was crushed by a speeding passenger train.
Among the littered water bottles, school bags and books, lay the blood splattered bodies of seven-year-old Ragini, her brothers, Santosh and Ravi, and many of their schoolmates. Next to them was the mangled iron frame of the smashed school van, PTI reported.
No worse tragedy could have struck Amarjeet, resident of Mishrouli and Ragini’s father, or Hasan from Batrouli who lost two young daughters – Sazida and Tamanna or Mainuddin, a resident of Maihiharwa, who lost son Miraz and daughter Muskan in the accident.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that the accident was due to the fault of the van’s driver, who had headphones over his ears. He also raised doubts about the driver’s age.
As the news of the accident spread at around 7 in the morning, many locals were still in their beds. Scores of people rushed to the accident site, many of them hoping their loved ones had somehow escaped the claws of death.
According to some eye witnesses, the van driver, who was also seriously injured, did not pay heed to calls from onlookers to stop the vehicle.
He tried to speed past the unmanned level crossing but the vehicle somehow got stuck on the tracks, Ram Manohar, a labourer, said.
The Thawe-Kapatanganj passenger train on way to Gorakhpur from Siwan came speeding and smashed the vehicle at the unmanned level crossing gate, he added.
According to another eye witness, Habib Ansar, some women and passersby tried to stop the van driver but he didn’t pay heed to their warnings.
I saw the crash from a close range and the children dying on the spot, a shaken Ansar said.
“It was the van driver’s mistake. Due to his careless attitude, the children died,” he said. Had the driver not tried to force his way through without ensuring that no train was coming, the tragedy could have been averted, many others lamented.
“I saw 13 kids dead on the spot. One child was sitting dazed and we rushed him to hospital. We informed police and administration and they arrived soon,” an eyewitness said.
There was some talk that the driver had his earphones on and did not pay heed to the warnings from the locals.
“What may have been music to the driver’s ears, will forever remain death knell for me,” said the mother of a deceased child.
Many other parents could hardly utter a word, dumbfounded by their grief. Locals, who rushed to the spot after hearing wails of pain, dragged the victims out of the crushed vehicle and rushed the wounded to a government hospital, around 30 km from the site.
The injured – the van driver and four children – were referred to the BRD Medical college hospital in Gorakhpur.
The deceased were identified as Hari Om (8 yrs), Ragini (7), Atiullah (8), Arshad (9), Anas Narod (8), Golu (8), Qamrool (10), Sazida (11), Tamanna (10), Miraz (8), Musquan (7), Santosh and Ravi.