An unmanned railway crossing and a school bus driver wearing earphones: together, it was the perfect recipe for tragedy.
The resulting accident —which took place at village Kot Mehtaab, 45 km from Amritsar, on Monday — claimed the lives of sisters Sehajpreet Kaur, 13, and Manpreet Kaur, 16. Two others — 12-year-old Komalpreet Kaur and 9-year-old Palakpreet Kaur died as well.
The bus was carrying 23 students of Baba Majha Singh Karamjot Senior Secondary School. Nineteen students were injured. The condition of three of them is critical. “The driver did not see the train coming,” said Harpreet Singh, brother of Sehajpreet and Manpreet, from his bed in Amritsar civil hospital. “We shouted and asked him to stop, but he was wearing headphones and did not hear us.”
“The driver will face legal action,” said Priyank Bharti, Amritsar deputy commissioner. Driver Milkha Singh, who was also injured, is in hospital.
Even though the school bus was hit by a “railbus” – a single-coach train carrying a handful of passengers – it was completely crushed. “It was very tough to get the bleeding children out of the mangled vehicle,” said a local, Jagdish Kumar.