The Railway Safety Commission on Thursday commenced its statutory inquiry into the fire in the S-11 coach of Tamil Nadu Express here in the early hours of Monday that claimed 32 lives.
As many as 87 employees working in various capacities on the route from Delhi to Chennai deposed before the commission. Two eyewitnesses, Mithun Nair of Chennai and railway gateman D Srinivas, apart from several officials including the Nellore district medical and health officer (DM&HO) gave their accounts in writing.
According to sources, Nair said the commotion jolted him out of deep slumber and he realised that his compartment was on fire. He jumped down from his upper berth and alerted his friend Ramalingam who was travelling in the same compartment. Observing that the fire was spreading fast, the duo ran into S-10 and from there jumped out. He lost his belongings, including an SLR camera and a laptop, all worth Rs 1.5 lakh.
Srinivas, the gateman, said he had noticed the fire when the train reached the railway level crossing at around 4.15 am. He immediately stood on the track and signaled 10 flag indicating danger to the train driver, William, who stopped the train at the level crossing. By the time the duo reached the S-11 coach, nothing of it remained except ashes. Three travelling ticket examiners (TTEs) _ Ramaprasad, Damodar and Kamalakanth _ who were on duty between Vijayawada and Chennai, were questioned by the commission for more than an hour.