High level probe ordered into alleged negligence

* Rail tragedy puts 75 in hospital; five critical

By Franklin R. Satyapalan, Dilanthi Jayamanna and Norman Palihawadana

Seventy five passengers were injured, five critically when Rajarata Rajina plying from Vavuniya to Matara and the Colombo to Palai Deyata Kirula Intercity power set collided head-on  outside the Pothuhera Railway Station yesterday morning.

Commercial Superintend of Sri Lanka Railways G. W .S Sisirakumara said that a full investigation had been launched into the tragedy to find out whether there had been negligence on the part of anyone and compensation would be paid by the Railway Department on the instructions of the Minister Kumar Welgama to all those injured. The Minister rushed to the scene.

Police said the injured had been taken to Kurunegala Teaching Hospital and large crowds that had gathered there to see the condition of their injured loved ones were hampering the work at the hospital.

Director of the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital Dr. Palitha D.Yapa told The Island that all the staff had promptly responded to the emergency and the doctors had performed emergency operations on five of the injured adults in a serious condition and one of them had been transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

The hospital director said that of the 45 persons receiving in-house treatment for major injuries 14 were males, 25 females and six children.

President of the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya, who travels to Anuradhapura and back by train every Wednesday was among the passengers who escaped unhurt.

The Health Department releases Paediatric Consultant Dr. Padeniya every Wednesday so that as Acting Head of Medical Faculty of the Rajarata University he could conduct lectures there.

Yesterday, morning too, the doctor was travelling with colleague Dr. Gayan Ekanayake consultant Plastic surgeon attached to the Anuradhapura Teaching Hospital around 8.45 am,.

Dr. Padeniya said while train was travelling around 30 to 40 miles per hour nearing the Pothuhera Railway Station the driver on seeing another train attempted to stop but it collided head on with the stationary train. The driver has said the brakes failed.

 Five rail compartments of new Indian power set of the Deyata Kirula train were derailed. One passenger said the pathetic thing observed was that some of the people in the vicinity instead of helping the injured get to hospital were busy taking photos with their mobile phones..

Commercial Superintendent of  Sri Lanka Railways Sisirakumara, who  rushed to the scene  on hearing  of the tragedy, said that SLCTB buses were deployed between  Potuhera and the Kurunegala Railway  Station  to provide shuttle services until the tracks were  cleared of wreckage and rail services would be restored  by Thursday morning.

The driver assistant of the Deyeta Kirula Intercity express bound for Palai, Ruparatne said that his train was an express train and when driver Rupasinghe sighted the stationary Rajarata Rajina he attempted to brake but to no avail.

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