'The speed of the train was such that even if people wanted to pelt stones, by the time they collected them, the train would have disappeared from sight'
Locals on Sunday came out hard against the statement of the driver who has said that the Dussehra revellers at the spot of the accident had pelted stones at the train.
In a statement given to police as well as the railway authorities, the driver of the train, which mowed down 59 people watching a Ravan effigy being burnt on October 19, said he had not stopped his train because of stone pelting from the crowd at the accident spot.
"I was at the spot. Leave alone stopping, the train did not even slow down. It seemed as if the driver wanted to mow us down. The train passed us in a matter of seconds.
"Is it logically possible for us to pelt stones at the train when so many people were dead and injured around us? Is it possible for us to get our bearings after such an incident and pelt stones at a speeding train? The driver is lying," Shailender Singh Shally, councillor, ward number 46, Amritsar, said.
The driver in his statement has said that he applied "emergency brakes" as he saw the crowd on the tracks but "still some people were caught in the path of the train".
He also said that he continuously honked to get people off the tracks.
The driver said people started throwing stones at the train when it was "almost on the verge of stopping" and so, keeping in mind the safety of his passengers, he continued towards Amritsar and informed officials there about the accident.
Onlookers rubbished the driver's claims and said the train did not slow down anywhere near the spot.
"He did not even slow down, let alone almost stopping. The train was in such speed that the accident happened in split seconds. There are hundreds of videos that show how fast the train went. There was no chance of us reacting, leave alone pelt stones. All we could hear around us was people screaming and crying," Paramjeet Singh, another onlooker, said.
The maximum speed of the train, which was a Diesel Electrical Multiple Unit, is 96 kmph, once brakes are applied, this kind of train stops completely in about 300 metres if empty, and in 600 metres if full, officials said.
The last recorded speed of the train, according to Divisional Railway Manager (Ferozpur) Vivek Kumar, was 68 kmph.
"As the train passed, I heard people screaming and shouting. There was no stone pelting. I don't understand why the driver would make up such a thing. Will people who are seeing their loved ones lying in pools of blood leave them or pick up stones to hit the train?
"Anyway, the speed of the train was such that even if people wanted to pelt stones, by the time they collected them, the train would have disappeared from sight. He is lying," Ajay Goenka, who was present at the spot, said.
Local police too corroborated the claims of the eyewitnesses and said that not just the train was travelling at a high speed, there were no reports of stone pelting at the site of the incident on October 19.
"As far as I know, there has been no stone pelting at the spot of the accident when the train passed," Sukhminder Singh, SHO of Mohkampura police station under whose jurisdiction the area falls said
Senior Railway officials were not available for comment on the matter officially.