CRS submits Report on Bangalore-Nanded Train fire – cites passengers’ negligence a root cause

Bangalore:  The preliminary investigation report by the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS), Bangalore, has noted that an “advertent act or act of negligence on the part of unidentified passenger(s) or person(s)” was the probable cause of fire in the AC coach-B1 of Bangalore-Nanded Express on December 28, 2013, which claimed 26 lives.

The report, which has been sent to Chief Commissioner, Railway Safety, by CRS Bangalore S K Mittal, on Thursday, states that the accident is classified under category “Error in working near railway line.”

However, his office was not forthcoming to elaborate further, on the grounds that it was an internal categorisation. The report also pegs the cost of damage to the coach at Rs 51.93 lakh including cost on account of damage to electrical equipment.

In his18-page report, the CRS has observed that all protective devices such as HRC fuses, MCCBs, MCBs and electric circuits were found intact in the coach except 40 amp MCBs and smaller MCBs for supply to light, fan and mobile charger circuits which were in burnt condition.

A staff of contractor who was sleeping on the bench in rear side of AC coach, who supplied bed rolls to passengers, felt heat underneath his bench. He, along with AC mechanic in the coach, pulled the alarm chain, states the report.

Further, the report observed that a burnt and melted adopter and burnt laptop were found on berth no 13 where burnt cells were also found. Another burnt laptop was found on berth no 40 and three pin top was found in burnt condition with hanging snapped wire near mobile charging point of berth No 39.

The post mortem report of the victims had suggested that majority of victims died due to gaseous asphyxia with 100 per cent burns and neurological shock.

As per preliminary report submitted by Andhra Pradesh State Forensic Science Laboratory, Hyderabad, which had collected samples for investigation from the affected coach, there were no signs of explosion effect found in the burnt coach and the pattern of fire signature was slow and progressive indicating absence of inflammable substances and sabotage as cause of fire. However, a final report by APFSL, Hyderabad, is still awaited.

As per observations of CRS, the coach was completely gutted in the fire except that some berths had not burnt completely. All combustible material, except some partially burnt berths, were reduced to ashes. All lights, fans, night light fittings, mobile charging points in all bays, emergency lights and their respective wiring were found burnt. Interior panels, insulation materials, amenity fittings, seats/ berths, roof ceiling and flooring were also completely burnt, except portions of few berths and part of top roof ceiling. Window glasses were broken completely during fire fighting.

Almost all passengers of the affected coach deposed that they saw smoke first, states the report. Fire was first seen in bay 1 and/or bay 2 side and the coach was in flames in a very short span of time, the report suggests.

Incidentally, two emergency windows in the affected coach were not used and the passengers had used the front door and toilet door to escape and all the glass windows were found in broken condition. The report adds that there was excessive burning mark near berth No 7 up to floor level.