URGENT Train Hits School Bus, Dozens Killed
Jan. 17, 1989
AHUNGALLA, Sri Lanka (AP) _ A train collided with a bus taking children home from school Tuesday and dragged it 50 yards. Police said 41 people were killed and 72 injured, and the death toll might rise.
School books, shoes and pencils were strewn along the track and inside the demolished bus.
''Bodies were scattered all over. Children were screaming,'' said a Buddhist monk who helped carry victims to ambulances and other rescue vehicles.
Witnesses said the driver of the bus, which was carrying about 120 people, tried to cross the track ahead of the train but his engine stalled.
Police said the driver escaped with minor injuries and five children riding on the steps jumped to safety. No one on the train was hurt.
A woman said she saw the train approaching the unguarded crossing and believed the bus driver could not see it through a light drizzle, so she tried to flag him down but was ignored.
Most of the dead and injured were taken to the Civil Hospital at Balapitiya village, about five miles from the accident. Twenty-five bodies were sprawled on the floor and tables of its three-room morgue.
Three infants were among the dead. One lay on a morgue table beside a woman's body, but nurses did not know whether she was the mother.
Other bodies, many badly mutilated, were on the floor awaiting identification .
A wailing mother searched the hospital for a daughter who had been on the bus.
''Inoka 3/8 Inoka 3/8'' she called out. Her two other children trailed along and nurses ran after her, trying to steer her away from the morgue.
Most of those on the bus were children. It had picked up pupils from four schools at Amblangoda town and was was bound for Urgasmanhandiya village about 10 miles away when it came to the crossing at Ahungalla, 50 miles south of Colombo.
Ahungalla is the halfway point of the bus route, which runs about 30 miles from Altugama to Galle.
Two brothers, Rohan and Duminda Kumara, were on one hospital bed, watched over by their father. The boys said they escaped with minor injuries to their legs because they were riding on the steps.
Chandrika Fernando, a nurse, said the more seriously injured were taken to a larger hospital at Galle.
Police officer K.M.M Keerthisinghe said at the hospital he did not have a breakdown of the casualties by age group, but at least 70 of the dead or injured were children.