Thursday, April 10, 2008


Two passengers dead while 26 are injured; 13 escape


Two passengers were killed and 26 others injured, three seriously, when the train they were traveling in, derailed and plunged into Sungai Padas here during a wet weather late yesterday afternoon. The dead, a man and a woman in their 40s have yet to be identified as the Police wanted to contact their nearest kin first. District Police Chief DSP Mazlan Lazim said the tragedy occurred near Kampung Tenom Lama, four kilometers from the town here shortly after the train departed from the station at 2.5Opm. Mazian who was met at the scene said the train was carrying 41 passengers in two passenger carriages. It was drizzling when the train left the station for Beaufort and the area where the accident occurred was water-logged. The condition of the ground caused the earth to soften and gave way when the train was passing through the area, apparently unable to bear its weight. The train cab and first carriage plunged into the river. The second carriage was seen still hanging precariously on the damaged tracks, saving the remaining other passengers from possible injuries and death. Mazian said the woman’s body was recovered at about 6.3Opm while the man’s body was found at 6.3Opm. Both bodies have been sent to the District Hospital for a post mortem. The train driver only sustained minor injuries but his assistant suffered a broken leg, according to him. All the injured victims including one suspected to have fractured his hips were sent to the District Hospital for treatment. A search and rescue team comprising 16 firemen and 20 police personnel were immediately dispatched to the scene when the report was received at 3.15pm. Some of the shocked survivors of the tragedy said when interviewed by Borneo Post reporters that the whole thing happened very fast, describing it as frightening. Those who survived unscathed, said it was like being given a new lease of life. “The whole thing happened in just seconds. Before we knew it the train started to list to the side and plunge into the river,” said Jesilau Sarawah, from Kampung Pangi. Jesilau who was in the front carriage with three of his siblings related that when the train started to fall into the river, passengers started screaming in fright and that caused everyone to panic. “In a blink of an eye, the train cab and the first carriage were already in the waters of the swollen river. So I jumped out of the window and started to pull my siblings out one by one. After that we went to help other passengers,” he said. A regular train commuter, Jesilau said the train was travelling at its normal speed but it started to slide down when it reached the area. Another survivor Suriah Tukit, also from Kampung Pangi, could not remember how she sustained her head injury as the whole thing happened really fast. “I was sitting in the front carriage and was not aware of what happened. The train jolted to a stop and all I heard people screaming. My son was trying to pull me out of the window,” she said, adding that she was thankful that the other family members were unhurt. Siawon Anditom, from Kampung Ponotomon, said she managed to crawl out of the window before the carriage started to slide into the river. “Only after I was out of the carriage did I realise the gravity of the accident especially when I noticed how swift flowing the river was,” she said, adding that she was travelling with her sister Elou. The train service is their regular transport to Tenom Town and they have yet to experience any as frightening as yesterday’s incident. “We did not hear anything prior to the incident... it was so fast. We only realised that something had happened when the train stopped suddenly,” she said. Meanwhile at the train station in Beaufort, anxious and worried family members were waiting for news from their kin who were travelling on the train. A man who did not want to be identified said his brother-in- law was on the train which should have arrived at Beaufort at 4.2Opm, “I have tried calling his handphone but was unable to get through and I am very worried as to his fate,” he said. Beaufort Station Master, Brahim Ag Besar, when met said, the train service between Tenom and Beaufort had been stopped temporarily. According to him, normally about 100 people use the train service daily but the number increases on weekends, public holidays and during festivals. Brahms who has been in service with the State Railways Department for 28 years, said this was the first time a train had plunged into the river. “In the past we had derailments and trains jumping off the tracks but never anything like this,” he said. The route from Beaufort to Tenom takes about two and a half hours with several stops at small stations along the way such as Saliwangan Baru, Halogilat, Rayoh and Pangi, the starting point for white water rafting.