The preliminary report by the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) on the fire in the Dehradun Express in December 2013 that claimed nine lives, has identified a mentally unstable woman passenger as the “probable cause of the fire” and has “ruled out the possibility of fire due to mechanical reasons”. The report has not named the unauthorised passenger.
The report was submitted to the Western Railway (WR) for its review and remarks earlier this week, said a senior railway official. While no immediate measure has been suggested, the Railways is likely to direct its train staff to be more vigilant with passengers who are found to be mentally unstable and a ‘nuisance’ to other passengers, said sources.
The woman was traveling alone in S3 coach of 19019 Dehradun Express with an unauthorised ticket on December 8 last year. The woman’s brother has, however, denied that his sister is unstable and responsible for the fire.
The report suspects the woman to be mentally unstable on the basis of the deposition of the Train Ticket Examiner, the Government Railway Police, Palghar and the on-duty medical officer at Government hospital in Palghar who examined her. Some of the witnesses have also claimed that passengers saw her smoke.
According to the preliminary report, the fire originated towards the south end of S3 where the passenger was seated. The lady suffered superficial burns on her hand and lost her belongings in the fire. Senior railway officers also said that the burn injuries for which she was treated indicate that she was close to the source of fire, unlike other injured passengers who complained mostly of breathlessness. Of the nine casualties, five were due to suffocation.
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“The CRS probe has revealed that none of the electrical and mechanical equipment inside the coach or under it was the cause of the fire, infact, most of it got burned due to the fire,” said another railway officer.
Besides sabotage and railway related equipment failure, P.S. Bhagel, Commissioner of Railway Safety, Western Zone was examining the involvement of the unauthorised passenger, following statements of passengers claiming that she was creating nuisance inside the coach.
While the Dahanu Railway police had detained the woman on the day of the incident, with no witnesses against her, they let her go with her relatives.
“After the accident, railway authorities have been asked to be more vigilant to ensure safety of passengers. The preliminary probe has not suggested any measures that need to be taken,” said Sharat Chandrayan, Chief Public Relations Officer, WR.