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Bus Driver in India Is Distracted by Music, and 13 Children Die

“Unfortunately, we take these accidents as part of life,” said Sudheendra Kulkarni, a political strategist who served on an advisory committee for railroads.


He said that most of those who use India’s railways, especially in rural areas, are poor people who lack political power. As a result, he said, railway safety has never been “a pressing priority” for any of India’s governments.

The causes of the accidents are as varied as human error to animal hazards. At least twice this year trains have plowed into elephant herds, killing endangered wildlife.

In this case, railway authorities say the bus driver, a 22-year-old man, was at fault. Around 6:50 a.m., he had just finished collecting 17 children from their homes in a rural area about 30 miles outside the midsize city of Gorakhpur.

Railway officials said parents in poorer parts of India took great pride in their school-going children, dressing them in clean white shirts and neckties, but that the drivers entrusted with taking the children to school were often poorly trained and paid, sometimes making the equivalent of $ 60 a month.

The crossing where the accident occurred was one of thousands across rural India that don’t have any gates, though it did have a crossing guard, railway officials said. The guard saw a train approaching, and waved and shouted for the bus driver to stop. He did not slow down, and did not seem to hear the screams of the children packed in behind him because, railway officials said, he was listening to music.

At the moment he drove over the tracks, a passenger train from Siwan, a town south of Gorakhpur, was bearing down on them. It slammed into the bus, a small passenger van that railway officials said was meant to carry six or seven passengers, not 17. The bus was crushed.

Eleven children were killed on the spot. Two more died on the way to the hospital. Four others are in intensive care, fighting for their lives.

The driver was also badly hurt. The authorities said they were eager to talk to him, if he survives.

Source: NYT > World

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