Kiev (Ukraine), Oct 12: A train locomotive rammed through a stalled passenger bus on a railroad crossing in eastern Ukraine today, killing 43 people and injuring eight others as the bus was pushed 300 meters down the tracks.
Investigators said the bus driver ignored the siren of the oncoming train, and the bus stalled on the tracks as the driver tried to shift gears. Witnesses said the driver also ignored a red light.
The yellow bus was smashed into a pile of metal by the blue locomotive, which was not pulling any cars. Television footage showed emergency workers piling bodies alongside the tracks outside the town of Marhanets in the Dnipropetrovsk region.
"The driver violated traffic rules," said Lyudmila Bolshakova, spokeswoman for local police.
Ukraine's Railways said the train driver saw the bus heading toward the tracks from 500 meters away and sounded the distress siren, which the driver ignored. The train driver applied the emergency brake system, but the locomotive was traveling at a speed of 75 kilometres per hour and was unable to stop in time.
Ukraine's ombudsman Nina Karpachova cited crash survivor Dmytro Olyinik, 30, who was headed to work in a nearby mine, as saying that the passengers tried to stop the driver from crossing the tracks when they saw the red light and heard the siren. They started screaming "Where are you going?" Olyinik was reported as saying.
Local railway officials said the bus was packed with commuters traveling from Marhanets to the nearby city of Nikopol, most of them heading for work. Relatives of those killed raced to the accident site and embraced one another as they wept with grief.
Road and railway accidents are common in Ukraine, where the roads are in poor condition, vehicles are poorly maintained and drivers and passengers routinely disregard safety and traffic rules. But officials said this was the deadliest auto accident in the country's history.
The Dnipropetrovsk branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry said 38 people died on the spot and five more in the hospital. The victims included a child and two teenagers.
President Viktor Yanukovych declared a national day of mourning tomorrow.
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov ordered his government to pay the family of each of the dead passengers USD 12,600.
He also instructed transport officials to install automated crossing gates at all railway crossings to prevent cars, buses and trucks from ignoring signals. AP