Lying on a hospital bed with an intravenous drip inserted into his hand and a plaster cast on his right leg, 9-year-old Krishna Verma shivered while he recalled the moments just before his school van was hit by a train on Thursday.
Thirteen of his schoolmates were killed and 8 others injured in the accident at an unmanned railway crossing near Dudhi railway station in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar, about 50 km from Gorakhpur. The van was taking the students to the Divine Mission School.
“The children kept shouting that a train was approaching fast but bhaiyya (the driver), who was busy speaking on the mobile phone, didn’t listen to us. Then the train hit our van and I became unconscious. Then I was taken to hospital,” said Krishna.
He was admitted to the BRD Medical College in Ghorakhpur. His bed is next to that of his critically injured sister Roshni, who has head injuries and multiple fractures and is on a ventilator.
The driver, 22-year-old Neyaz Ahmed, too is on a ventilator at the same hospital. Two others who were in the van, cousins Sameer and Talim, have also been admitted there. Doctors said that their condition is stable.
Mohammad Hassan, a daily wage labourer, lost his two daughters, eight-year-old Tamanna, and 10-year-old Sajida, in the accident. Standing next to six-year old Sameer’s bed he refused to speak.. But his younger brother Azmat said: “The entire village is shocked over the deaths. The kids told us that the driver didn’t stop the van despite the alarm raised by them. With earphones in his ears, he also ignored the warning of the Gate Mitra.” The Gate Mitra is a person deployed at unmanned level crossings under an initiative of the railway ministry to warn drivers.
Krishna’s father Kailash Verma, while thanking God for saving his son, was worried about his daughter Roshni who is in a coma.
“I was at work when the news came in about the accident. I rushed to the spot but didn’t find my son and daughter among the 17 bodies which were lying covered with white clothes. Somebody told me that they were taken to the community health centre. I found them there and brought them here on an ambulance,” Verma said.
School bags, shoes, books and bodies were lying near the crushed van when he reached the railway crossing, said Verma.
Another father, whose house is just a few kilometres from the accident site, lost his three children, five-year-old Santosh, seven-year-old Ravi and eight-year-old Ragini. “This house, which once used to be abuzz with activities of the children, is now lying deserted. Nobody had ever thought that this would happen to us . Nobody but the government is responsible for this,” said Amarjeet, a representative of the Mishrauli village head.