Crackers carried by passengers led to the fire in the Tamil Nadu Express that claimed 32 lives in July, according to an inquiry by Commissioner Railway Safety which absolved the railway staff.
CRS of South Central Circle Dinesh Kumar Singh conducted the probe into the fire incident in the early hours of July 30 in New Delhi-Chennai Tamil Nadu Express at Nellore. Besides killing 32 passengers, the incident left 28 people injured, including six grievously.
The report submitted to railway ministry, has categorically stated that 'failure of persons other than railway staff' is the cause of the incident at Nellore near Hyderabad two months back.
The analysis of the samples from the charred coach by the Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory had found chemicals used in manufacturing of crackers like potassium, nitrate, sulphur, magnesium, aluminum and chloride.
Some of the crackers were found in burst condition and some were affected by temperature, said the report of the CRS. CRS functions under the civil aviation ministry.
"Most probably, one of the crackers might have got ignited due to some accidental impact or due to some person throwing a lighted object like cigarette or matchstick near it unknowingly. The fire would have spread very fast due to burning of substantial amount of crackers kept nearby," it has observed.
The cracker blast would have been mistaken for explosion as has been reported by a few passengers during the inquiry, said the CRS report.
The fire generated dense smoke which caused irritation, difficulties in breathing, incapacitated the passengers and also made them unconscious, CRS observed in its report.
"A number of passengers have stated that they fell unconscious because of the smoke. Post mortem reports of the trains passengers who died in the accident also indicate the main cause of death as asphyxia and shock due to suffocation and deep burns," said the inquiry report.
The report also noted that the condition of batteries in the emergency light units of the coach shows that the batteries were burnt due to external fire and no evidence of overheating due to increase in internal resistance was found.
The railways have decided to undertake a massive awareness campaign including launching of helplines to inform passengers not to carry any inflammable objects inside the coaches.