Eyewitnesses of Friday’s train tragedy in Amritsar have accused the loco pilot of lying and rubbished his statement to police and railway authorities that he did not stop the train because the Dussehra revellers at the spot of the accident had started pelting stones.
The train had ploughed through a crowd on a rail track watching a Ravan effigy being burnt, killing 61 people on the spot and injuring many others.
“I was at the spot. Leave alone stopping, the train did not even slow down. It seemed as if the driver wanted to mow us down. The train passed us in a matter of seconds,” PTI quoted Shailender Singh Shally, a municipal councillor as saying.
“Is it logically possible for us to pelt stones at the train when so many people were dead and injured around us? Is it possible for us to get our bearings after such an incident and pelt stones at a speeding train? The driver is lying,” he said.
The driver in his statement on Saturday said that he applied “emergency brakes” as he saw the crowd on the tracks but “still some people were caught in the path of the train”. He also said that he continuously blew the horn to get people off the tracks.
The driver said people started throwing stones at the train when it was “almost on the verge of stopping” and so, keeping in mind the safety of his passengers, he continued towards Amritsar and informed officials there about the accident.
Eyewitnesses dismissed the driver’s claims and said the train did not slow down anywhere near the spot.
Watch: Protesters clash with police at Amritsar train accident site
“He did not even slow down, let alone almost stop. The train was in such speed that the accident happened in seconds. There are hundreds of videos that show how fast the train went. There was no chance of us reacting, leave alone pelt stones. All we could hear around us was people screaming and crying,” Paramjeet Singh, another eyewitness, said.
The maximum speed of the train, which was a Diesel Electrical Multiple Unit (DEMU) is 96 kmph. Once brakes are applied, this kind of train comes to a halt in about 300 metres if empty, and in 600 metres if it has a full complement of passengers, officials said. The last recorded speed of the train, according to Divisional Railway Manager (Ferozpur) Vivek Kumar, was 68 kmph.
“As the train passed, I heard people screaming and shouting. There was no stone pelting. I don’t understand why the driver would make up such a thing….. The speed of the train was such that even if people wanted to pelt stones, by the time they collected them, the train would have disappeared from sight. He is lying,” Ajay Goenka, who was present at the spot, said.
Local police too corroborated the claims of the eyewitnesses.
“As far as I know, there has been no stone pelting at the spot of the accident when the train passed,” Sukhminder Singh, SHO of Mohkampura police station under whose jurisdiction the area falls, told PTI.
Senior Railway officials were not available for comment on the matter officially.