5 September 2009

Train crash kills one and blocks tracks for 24 hours

The Penataran's locomotive and first car jumped the tracks and overturned. (Photo: Noeldin, JG)

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Malang

A Penataran train serving the Surabaya-Blitar-Malang route derailed Friday in Tanjungtirto subdistrict, Malang regency, East Java, killing a passenger and blocking the route for 24 hours.

The victim was identified as Sudarsono, 50, a locomotive engineer assistant on the ill-fated train that was carrying hundreds of passengers.

Sudarsono died when his body was stuck inside the narrow steering chamber and rescuers worked for two hours to retrieve his body.

Locomotive engineer D. A. Wibowo, survived the accident suffering only minor injuries and shock.

The accident also injured nine passengers who were rushed to the Saiful Anwar General Hospital in Malang for further treatment.

Witnesses said the speeding passenger train that departed from Malang Station at 13:40 hit a crossing buffalo before it derailed some eight kilometers from the station.

Before the train derailed, it directly hit and destroyed the back part of a building belonging to cigarette producer PT Bentoel Prima Investama.

The first carriage, located right behind the driver, was separated from the other carriages during the crash.

The second was derailed, but was still standing. The rest of the carriages managed to remain on the train tracks.

Survivor Mislan Sukardi, 32, of Blitar, East Java, said he was sitting in a passenger seat in the first carriage when the speeding train suddenly put on the breaks.

"In a moment, the train rocked very strongly and fell off the tracks into a rice paddy next to the railroad," he said.

Head of Malang Station Sutiono said so far the buffalo was thought to have caused the accident. "So, it's not a human error. However, we will deploy a team to investigate the case. We just have to wait for the results," he said.

Five other passenger trains serving the Surabaya-Malang route and another train carrying fuel were unable to pass through the route.

The number of delayed trains could have increased if more than 24 hours were needed to remove the wreckage from the KA Penataran train.

As of Friday afternoon the state-owned railway company PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI) were waiting for the arrival of a crane from Surakarta, Central Java, to help remove wreckage from the site.

The crash caused damage to the railway tracks and dozens of railway sleepers and will have to be replaced.

Officers from PT KAI that inspected the crash site said the location was steep and that consequently every train leaving Malang automatically sped up while passing through the region.

"The permitted speed limit is between 50 and 60 kilometers per hour," an officer said.

Head of the state-owned insurance company PT Jasa Raharja's Malang municipal office, Gatot Nursalim, assured the family of the fatal victim they would receive a maximum Rp 25 million in compensation.

While injured commuters will receive a maximum of Rp 50 million.

"We will pay all of them as this is a public transport service and therefore all passengers are insured," he said.

Previously, the KA Mutiara Timur train serving the Banyuwangi-Jember-Surabaya route was also derailed. Loose railway track were blamed for last month's accident that injured dozens.

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