100s of passengers on Thane-Nerul train miraculously escape a derailment that was caused by a stolen manhole cover. Alert motorman M K Zinge applied emergency brakes when he saw the thief, but by the time the train stopped, the first few wheels had run over the manhole cover, derailing a coach.
The 4.10 pm Thane-Nerul train on the Harbour line crossed Airoli station as usual at 4.16 pm on Friday. It was just approaching Rabale station when the motorman, A K Zinge, saw a person dragging a huge object across the track, about 200 metres from the train. In an instant, Zinge pressed the horn, the person dropped the object in panic, Zinge applied emergency brakes, the train hurtled over the object and the sudden movement derailed a coach. The alert motorman had averted a near-fatal accident that could have killed hundreds of commuters.
The object on the tracks turned out to be a 3×3 feet manhole cover, which a thief had stolen from a footpath adjacent to the Harbour line tracks. The person must have been dragging the heavy concrete cover across the tracks, when he saw the train approaching. Realising that he would not make it across in time, he dumped the cover in front of the coming train and fled.
The train had been travelling at 40 to 50 kmph at the time of the incident. Though Zinge started pressing the horn to warn the person, he realised time was running out. “The next few moments were crucial for the safety of commuters. I immediately applied emergency brakes. The manhole cover was barely 50 metres from the train at the time,” Zinge said, still shivering at the thought.
By the time the train came to a halt, the first few wheels had run over the manhole cover, derailing the first coach. Commuter Kushal Kshirsagar was shaken by the incident. “The train made a loud noise before it came to a screeching halt. A few metal parts flew off from the tracks when it derailed. I jumped off the train and saw the manhole cover stuck underneath the tracks,” he said.
Another commuter, Manoj Shukla, who was on the train, said, “I was standing on the footboard when I saw a man struggling with a huge concrete cover on the tracks. The motorman kept pressing the horn and when the man realised the train was getting too close, he panicked and ran.”
S C Mudgerikar, CPRO of CR added, “A major accident was averted as Zinge was alert. We will conduct a detailed enquiry into the matter. The services on the route resumed by 6.16 pm.”
Train services disrupted
The train service on the Harbour Line of the Central Railway remained disrupted for the next two hours as Railway officials had to arrange for a crane to put the train back on the tracks. Meanwhile, the Thane-Vashi and Thane-Panvel services were diverted to another line. S N Datar, Senior Police Inspector of Rabale police station said, “The manhole cover was stolen from near the tracks.”
Passengers gathered around the derailed train. Services on the Harbour Line resumed after 6 pm.