BANGALORE, December 30, 2013: Amid stories of trauma and devastation, there was one of a miraculous escape of a father and son, who managed to jump off the burning B1 coach of the Bangalore Nanded Express in the nick of time.
Nursing his burnt right foot on which he had applied ointment, 73-year-old M.B. Patil , former Chief Editor of Karnataka Gazetteer, Government of Karnataka, still appeared dazed from the horrific experience he and his son Manjunath Patil (36), a software engineer, encountered on board the train.
‘Woke up to screams’
Speaking to presspersons from the comfort of their home in Banashankari, Mr. Patil said they were on their way to Ajantha and Ellora on a sight-seeing-cum-pilgrimage. “I woke up to screams and chaos.” Slipping down from the middle berth, Mr. Patil dashed to the nearest exit just before the train stopped.
“After I jumped off the train, I began worrying about my son and I searched for him. I did not see him for more than 15 minutes and I began to fear for his life,” he said.
Mr. Manjunath, meanwhile, had managed to get down from the opposite exit, landing on the other side of the train. “Even I was worried for my father. In fact, I went back into the train later, calling out his name and searching for him even as people were running helter-skelter. I came across a man, stuck in the bogie, with his legs on fire. He screamed telling me not to come further inside the bogie, which was in flames.”
It took more than fifteen minutes for the father and son to find each other. Even as they hugged each other, they decided to move away from the accident spot, leaving all their luggage and belongings behind.
“We lost our ATM cards and other valuables in the train. We did not even have our slippers on. We walked for about a kilometre and hitched a ride on a private bus, which dropped us at Penukonda railway station from where we took a train to Bangalore.” From there they took an autorickshaw home.
Describing how the accident took place, Mr. Patil said, “The fire erupted from the centre of the bogie like a flower pot. People were running around, trying to get out. With the fire spreading fast, even as the train was in motion, passengers were crowding at the doors to jump out. Many scared passengers, including women, the elderly and children, tried to open the shutters that connected one bogie with the next in a desperate attempt to flee. But, they were closed. I could not get down till the train slowed down,” he said.
‘No fire extinguishers’
Mr. Manjunath said he could not spot any fire extinguisher and most people were unaware of how to pull the chain.
“Our AC bogie was also cut off from the rest, and people could not hear our screams. Somebody, however, pulled the chain later, and the train stopped,” he said.
Meanwhile, at Mr. Patil’s home, his family too were growing anxious as they had learnt about the tragedy on the television.
Mr. Patil’s daughter, Shalini, said, “I began to panic when I saw the news. When I called my brother, his number was not reachable. Later, I called on my father’s mobile and my brother answered and said they were safe. I feel that it is a rebirth for them.”
Mr. Patil said this was the third time he had come close to death, the first two being during flight landings.