LODHRAN - At least seven students and a driver were crushed to death and eight others sustained critical injuries when a Karachi-bound train hit two motorcycle rickshaws at Jalalpur Railway Crossing here on Friday.

According to the locals of the area, the incident occurred when the rickshaw drivers tried to pass through the crossing track, misjudging the speed of Hazara Express due to a dense fog. As a result, five students and a rickshaw driver were killed on the spot while 10 others injured and shifted to the DHQ hospital. In view of their critical condition, they were referred to Bahawal Victoria Hospital, Bahawalpur, where two more students succumbed to their injuries.

The children, all aged between six and 10, were on their way to school when the train ploughed into them.

According to police officer Javed Ahmed, the rickshaw drivers apparently misjudged the speed of the coming train due to heavy fog while attempting to cross the tracks.

Following an inspection of the crash site and a preliminary investigation, the assistant train driver and a railway worker responsible for the crossing were detained for questioning, said Asad Sarfaraz, a senior police officer.

Police had earlier said the crossing was ungated. "The railway worker responsible for manning the crossing was found missing from his post," he said.

On receiving information, Multan Divisional Commissioner Asadullah Khan and Lodhran Deputy Commissioner Shahid Niaz rushed to the spot. Talking to media persons, they said the best available medical treatment was being provided to the injured.

The police arrested the gatemen, Riaz Shah and Muhammad Fazil, and started investigation.

A railway worker, on condition of anonymity, affirmed the tragic accident occurred for lack of communication system at the crossing. “We close crossing gates as soon as we see a train. When there is a foggy weather, we shut the gates on hearing the horns,” revealed the worker.

Staff Reporter from Bahawalpur adds: Bahawal Victoria Hospital Emergency Unit in-charge Dr Aamir Bukhari told media persons that six children injured in the Lodhran accident were brought to the hospital, adding two of them succumbed to their wounds while condition of the others was critical. He said the injured were being provided with the best available medical treatment.

Meanwhile, PTI Secretary General Jahangir Khan Tareen expressed deep grief over the loss of precious lives in the collision between the train and motorcycle rickshaws.

 “We share grief with the bereaved families and demand stern action against those whose negligence resulted in the gruesome accident,” he said.

Bahawalpur DC Ehtesham Anwar and DPO Ashfaq Ahmad visited Bahawal Victoria Hospital and enquired after the children injured in the train accident. They directed the hospital administration to provide the best possible medical facilities to the injured.