Thu, 27 May 2004

Seven killed as train plows into bus in Jember

ID Nugroho, Surabaya

Another railway disaster hit the country's railways on Wednesday as a passenger train smashed into a bus in Jember regency, East Java, killing at least seven people and injuring 21 others.

The accident, involving a Mutiara Timur train and a bus operated by the Akas Asri company, occurred in Garahan village, Silo Jember subdistrict, at around 3:15 a.m.

The casualties were all passengers on the bus, which was on its way from Jember to Bali via the neighboring city of Banyuwangi. The train was also traveling eastwards from Surabaya to Banyuwangi.

Eye witnesses said the crash happened as the bus tried to pass over a railway crossing in Garahan village, some 100 kilometers west of the East Java capital, Surabaya.

"But a train appeared unexpectedly and hit the front end of the bus," Mulyono, an official with Silo Jember subdistrict, told The Jakarta Post.

The bus was dragged some meters by the train before finally coming to rest in a rice field, he added.

Local villagers later arrived at the scene to give assistance to the victims.

Mulyono said that negligence on the part of the crossing's guard may have been the cause of the accident.

"I saw at the location of the accident that the crossing barrier had not been lowered," he said.

However, he said any conclusion would have to await the completion of the investigation.

Jember Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Setyo Prihadi was quoted by AFP as saying that human error was the cause the accident.

The guard at the railway crossing failed to lower the barrier as the train approached, he said. The unidentified guard was arrested for questioning and brought to the local police station.

Medical workers at the Dr. Soebandi hospital in Jember said three of the victims were killed instantly at the scene -- the bus driver, Munarso, and his two assistants, M. Syair and Suheri. Four others died later at the hospital.

Sudarsono, a spokesman for state railway operator PT Kereta Api Indonesia, said the railway authorities were also investigating the crash.

The accident had not disrupted traffic on the Surabaya- Banyuwangi railway line, he added.

Accidents are common on the country's aging railway network, and often take place at railway crossings.

Four members of one family died after a train plowed into their car in the Central Java regency of Batang on Jan. 17.

On April 1, at least 12 people were killed and 18 others seriously injured when a train hit an intercity bus at an unguarded crossing in Ogan Komering Ulu Timor regency, South Sumatra.

A similar accident claimed the lives of four people on May 17, when a train slammed into a container truck at a crossing in Deliserdang regency, North Sumatra.

In June last year, a newly married couple and 13 of their wedding guests were killed when a train hit a bus at a crossing in Central Java.