I saw death

09th dec 2007 : Jagtar Singh, 39, was the motorman in the Kasara-to-CST fast train that was running at 80 km per hour on Sunday afternoon when it smashed into a JCB machine that suddenly jutted on to the tracks near Kanjurmarg station. Singh, who saw the earth excavator only 200 metres away, slammed the emergency brakes hard and ducked for cover as the local collided with the machine and came to a screeching halt after travelling another 280 metres after impact.

His presence of mind saved the lives of over 2,000 commuters, because if he had not applied the emergency brakes, the impact would have been far more severe, resulting in a major tragedy. Here he tells Nilesh Nikade about his brush with death:

I joined the Railways as motorman only two weeks ago, so yesterday was only my second Sunday at work, and it seemed to be a very normal one as I got on to the N12 fast local that I was supposed to take from Kasara to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in the morning.

I started at 10.10 am and reached Thane at around 12.30 because of the mega block. But from then on, the ride was quick, and at around 1 pm, the train got close to Kanjurmarg station, where we did not have a stop.

There is an acute left turn near the Kanjurmarg station, and my EMU (local) was travelling at the speed of 80 kms per hour. Seated on the left side of the motorman’s cabin, I was negotiating the turn when I saw a crane positioned dangerously close to the railway tracks, at a distance of 400 metres. When I had completely negotiated the turn, and was only 200 metres away from the crane, the machine’s arm suddenly swerved on to the tracks and simply stayed put. I was shocked. I became speechless and almost started shivering with dread. It was almost as if I was seeing death. I realised I had to act swiftly. So I slammed the emergency brakes, ducked and immediately spread myself flat on the floor of the motorman’s cabin.

Barely had I done that, when the crane’s arm smashed into the train. The collision was so severe that the huge arm came off the machine, and a piece of glass that came off the front of my cabin caused a deep cut above my eyes. I started bleeding. The train, meanwhile, travelled 250 metres further before coming to a halt.

Soon as it halted, I came out of the cabin, injured, and was taken to hospital by my colleagues, who arrived at the spot soon.

Recovering in hospital now, I think I’ve had a very lucky escape. My job depends entirely on my eye movements, and I have fortunately not suffered any damage to the eyes though I have got some stitches on the head because of the cut.

I also feel that the incident has taken the fear out of me. I am now looking forward to resuming work soon.

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