Polgahawela level crossing accident
The bus was a local service to Colombo from Galkiriyageme Anuradhepura, reportedly carrying over 90 people. At 0830AM to 0845AM local time (0230-0245 UTC), the bus was traveling through Yagalmodere, Polgahawela, 80 km north-east of Colombo. The bus proceeded through the signals and barriers of a level crossing without stopping, and was struck by an intercity express train from Colombo to Kandy. H. A. Sirisena, the train's driver, was quoted as saying: "The signal was green and the level-crossing gates were closed, then I saw the bus trying to cross and the next thing I know, the engine was hitting the rear of the bus." It was thought that the bus was participating in a race with another local private bus, with the intention of gathering more and more passengers from the next main town. The bus driver, A. W. Haprool Azad, did not see the train in his haste. The driver, who survived with only a broken ankle, initially refused to speak about the accident to investigators.
The bus was destroyed and the wreckage caught fire, killing many of the injured people strewn on the tracks in front of the train, which managed to stop shortly after striking the bus. It was thought that more than 35 people were killed in the disaster. All survivors from the bus sustained injuries. None of the train's passengers or crew were injured in the accident.
The barriers on the crossing only covered the lane for oncoming traffic, allowing the bus to drive through on the wrong side of the road with visibility obscured further due to vegetation in area. The Sri Lankan government promised to prevent races by private bus companies, who competed for customers by advertising fast journeys, often violating traffic laws to do so. It also promised to prosecute irresponsible road users.
In April 2013, the bus driver, as well as bus conductor M.G. Buddhika Ruwan Kumara, were sentenced to death by Kurunagala High Court, the first death sentences handed down in Sri Lanka for a road traffic offense.
- Ramanayake, Wasantha (April 23, 2004). "Bus illegally driven round the end of the level crossing barrier". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). Retrieved February 6, 2014.