M A I N   N E W S

4 die as school van hits train
Accident at unmanned level crossing in Ludhiana
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 5
Four children were killed while 14 others were injured, six of them seriously, when the school van in which they were returning home rammed into a train at an unmanned crossing in Bhai Himmat Singh Nagar here this afternoon. While two died on the spot, two others succumbed to their injuries in hospital.

As the news of the accident spread, anxious parents descended on the Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur (GTB) Hospital, Bagga Hospital and Dayanand Medical College (DMC) where the injured were rushed by good Samaritans, minutes after the accident. Among heart-rending scenes and shrieks of parents, who found their toddlers unconscious, mainly with head injuries, there were four couples for whom life has come to a standstill. Gitanshu Sharma (LKG), Rupali (Class IV), Simranjit Singh (Class IV) and twinkle (Class VI) did not live to tell their parents about their visit to Hardy World Fun Park earlier in the day.

The ill-fated private Maruti van was carrying students of the Khalsa Diwan-run Sri Guru Harkrishan Public School back home after the school closed. Within 10 minutes of leaving the school, it was hit by a Hisar-bound passenger train at the unmanned crossing. The Principal of the school, Mrs Hardyal Kaur Chhina, who was among the first to reach the hospital, said: “The children were excited to return home and narrate their experience about Hardy World Fun Park to their parents. This batch of students had left for home, while we were still waiting for other groups to return when a parent called us to inform about the tragedy”.

School gatekeeper Mr Sukhjiwan Singh said: “The school closed at 1:30 pm. Barely 10 minutes later, the school received information about the tragedy. Within minutes we were at the accident site where two children, Rupali and Simranjit, both from the same class, lay dead with their bodies badly mutilated. They were identified much later”.

The driver of the van, Gurminder Singh, is critically injured. His two children were also in the school van at the time of the accident. His daughter Gurpreet has received head injuries. The school accountant, Mrs Ramandeep Kaur, who remained at the site of accident till all the children were moved to hospitals, said the children were returning to their homes in Shimla Puri, Nirmal Nagar, Himmat Nagar, and nearby areas.

Those with minor injuries were taken to Bagga Hospital in the vicinity of the accident site while those with serious injuries were taken to GTB Hospital. Later, four of them with head injuries were referred to DMC. The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Anurag Verma and the SSP, Mr Narinder Pal Singh, who were among the first to arrive at GTB, hospital, personally supervised the situation.

Since most of the students were unconscious, the bags of the students in the van were scanned to establish the identity of the students. It was found that the Maruti van was carrying 18 students, besides the driver. Parents and officials feel that the accident may have resulted because the driver could not see the train due to obstruction caused by the large number of students in the vehicle.

It could not have been more tragic for Mrs Seema Sharma, who after going through the entire casualty ward discovered that her son was on a stretcher that had been isolated from the other children as he was no more. Mrs Sharma, who collapsed soon afterwards, had to be carried away by relatives.

The District Civil Surgeon, Dr S. N. Tewari, said since most of the children had suffered head injuries, it would require constant monitoring for some time before anything could be said about their condition.

At least six accidents have taken place at unmanned crossings in and around the city this year.

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