Indian officials on Friday arrested three railway workers in connection with a deadly train crash last month that left at least 290 people dead and again highlighted safety problems across a vast train network that serves as a vital lifeline for the poor.
India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, which is leading the criminal investigation into the train crash in the eastern state of Odisha, said the workers were arrested on charges of endangering the safety of passengers, culpable homicide not amounting to murder and tampering with evidence.
In a statement, the agency identified the three as a senior divisional engineer, a divisional engineer and a technician. The “investigation is ongoing,” the agency said.
The Coromandel Express, which was traveling from West Bengal, crashed into a parked goods train in Odisha at a speed of 80 miles per hour, resulting in a three-way entanglement with another train that was passing in the opposite direction.
The majority of the dead came from three general coaches, where India’s poorest – often workers in search of economic opportunity – pack shoulder to shoulder, traveling large stretches of the journey standing up.
Immediately after the crash, officials said the cause was a signal failure – that the Coromandel Express, arriving at the station at full speed, was given a green signal to proceed on a loop line that should have been blocked. Whether the cause was a technical failure or human error was left to investigators.
The accident became the subject of at least two separate investigations – a criminal one by the CBI, and a technical one by the Railway Board of India.
While officials have not released the results of the railway’s technical investigation, copies leaked to Indian news outlets suggest that repeated red flags were missed. Among the irregularities were incorrect labeling of the wiring inside the signal box that went unnoticed for years, news reports said.