How did a microbus get on railway tracks? Questions swirl around deadly Mirsharai accident

The victims reportedly breached a level crossing barricade after the gateman lowered it

Mitoon ChowdhuryChattogram Bureaubdnews24.com
Published : 29 July 2022, 04:29 PM
Updated : 29 July 2022, 04:29 PM

Tanveer Hasan Hriday, a 12th grader, was feeling unwell and taking a nap in the backseat of a microbus.

He was returning home with 15 teachers and students of R&G Coaching Centre in Chattogram’s Hathazari from a picnic at Khoiyachhora waterfall in Mirsharai on Friday.

Tanveer woke up with sudden extreme pain in his head and he struggled to grasp what had happened.

The microbus was ploughed through by a train at a level crossing around 1:30pm. Six of the passengers flew out of the microbus on impact of the collision. The train, Mahanagar Prabhati, pushed along the microbus for more than a kilometre.

Md Rabbani, a passenger of the train, said they did not realise what was going on when they heard a loud bang. “We only saw something white in front of the train. After the train stopped, we saw that it was a microbus. We didn’t imagine there would be so many bodies inside it.”

As many as 11 people, including the driver, died in the accident. The driver’s assistant and Tanveer were among seven survivors. Six of them were hospitalised.

Md Arafat, a local who was travelling by an autorickshaw, said the impact of the collision thrusted a man out of the microbus, but he stood up instantly. Others started falling out seconds later.

“I survived maybe because I was in the backseat,” Tanveer said, with a bandage around his head at Chattogram Medical College Hospital's neurosurgery department.

Md Kamal Hossain, assistant registrar of the department, said the injured had serious wounds. Tanveer’s condition was better than the others. Doctors were doing CT scan tests to know the victims’ condition.

A PIECE OF THE PUZZLE MISSING

As the families of the victims, all of whom were between 18 and 25 years old, were grieving in Hathazari, authorities were trying to figure out how the microbus got on the tracks despite the facts that the level crossing was protected with boom barriers on both sides and a gateman was supposed to be on duty there.

As the gatemen were appointed on a temporary basis, signs that read “No Gateman. Cross At Your Own Responsibility” were still on both sides of the crossing.

Citing the gateman on duty during the accident, the railway authorities said he had lowered the barricade at the crossing but the microbus breached it. According to witnesses, some of the victims lifted the barricade to cross the tracks as the gateman had left it unmanned.

Locals said autorickshaw drivers often lift the barricade themselves and cross the tracks when a gateman is absent, an allegation denied by Khoiyachhara Jharna Route CNG Association President Md Anwar Hossain.

Nazim Uddin, chief of Chattogram Railway Police, said they detained the gateman, Saddam Hussain, for questioning.

After visiting the scene of the accident, Jahangir Alam, general manager of Bangladesh Railway’s eastern zone, said: “I spoke with the gateman and he claimed that he was present at the time of the accident. He advised the microbus passengers against lifting the barricade after a train from Chattogram had passed, but they did not heed.”

The train from Dhaka arrived at that time and hit the vehicle, he said.

Hasan Chowdhury, a superintendent of police at Chattogram Railway Police, said: “We’re still not sure whether the gateman was present at the time of the accident or not. We’re investigating the matter.”

The keeper of a shop near the crossing said the gateman left the crossing to offer his prayers after lowering the boom barriers. The shopkeeper requested anonymity.

The railway authorities formed two committees to investigate the accident. Divisional Transport Officer of Railway (Eastern Region) Ansar Ali is heading a five-member committee while a four-member panel was constituted with Additional Chief Engineer Arman Hossain as the helm.

[Writing in English by Osham-ul-Sufian Talukder and Arshi Fatiha Quazi]

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher