Father and daughter survive deadly Odisha train crash after swapping seats with strangers

Passenger grateful for 'miracle' of escaping unscathed from one of India's worst rail accidents

Damaged coaches at the site of a train collision following the accident in Balasore district in Odisha. Reuters
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An Indian man and his eight-year-old daughter escaped a deadly three-train accident in Odisha after they swapped seats with other passengers.

MK Deb and his daughter boarded the Coromandel Express, which runs between the eastern cities of Kolkata and southern Chennai, from Kharagpur in West Bengal on Friday.

The pair had an appointment with a doctor in the neighbouring Cuttack City.

They swapped seats with strangers after the girl insisted on sitting near a window.

“We requested the Ticket Checker who suggested we get our seats swapped with other passengers. We went to another coach and requested two persons, who agreed,” Mr Deb told Times of India Daily.

“They came to our original coach while we sat in their seats in the coach, which was positioned three rakes away.”

The express train rammed into a freight train near Bahanaga railway station in Odisha's Balasore district at about 7pm, causing at least a dozen of coaches to derail.

Carriages tumbled over on a down-line track causing a further collision with the incoming Howrah Superfast Express train.

The Coromandel Express was travelling at a speed of 128kmph while the other passenger train was travelling at 126kmph.

At least 275 people were killed and more than 1,100 injured making it one of the country's worst rail accidents.

The coach where Mr Deb had reserved seats was completely crushed, but the father and daughter escaped unscathed.

“We are not aware of the condition of the two passengers, who agreed to change their seats with us. We pray for their safety. At the same time, we are grateful to the almighty for this miracle. Almost all passengers in our coach were safe,” he said.

Children hold placards as they offer prayers for the victims and survivors of the three-train collision in India's Odisha state. AFP

One of the survivors, 10-year-old boy Debasish Patra, was pulled from under seven bodies in the wreckage after being trapped for hours.

He boarded the train at Balasore travelling with his brother and parents on the Coromandel Express on their way to visit Puri, a Hindu holy city, in Odisha.

But a few minutes after the train left the station, it collided with the freight train.

The family was travelling in one of the coaches that was derailed.

“I was sitting next to my mother and suddenly there was a huge sound followed by a massive jerk and everything went dark. I lost consciousness. When I opened my eyes, I was in terrible pain and trapped under a heap of bodies,” Debasish Patra said.

His brother, a student of Xth standard, found him with the help of villagers.

He is currently being treated for injuries to his forehead and face.

Updated: June 05, 2023, 9:29 PM