The yellow school van of Divine Public School carrying nearly 25 students was passing through the railway crossing early Thursday morning when the accident took place. It reportedly stalled on the tracks and was badly smashed by the train that passed moments later.
Kushinagar is just 50 km from Gorakhpur, the home turf of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath that had sent the saffron-robed monk to parliament for five straight terms. He had to quit the Lok Sabha seat after he took over as Chief Minister. But he failed to deliver the seat to his party in the by-elections earlier this year.
The Chief Minister had taken a chopper to reach Kushinagar over 300 km east from state capital Lucknow within hours of the tragedy.
A large crowd of people, angry at the loss of young lives, had already gathered there, questioning the failure of the railway authorities and state government to take steps that would have saved lives.
The vehicle mostly had children below 10.
Yogi Adityanath later tweeted pictures of his visit to Gorakhpur's BRD medical college, one of the largest in the state's eastern belt. In his post, the Chief Minister had said he had seen the injured and spoken to the families of the injured children.
The chief minister had earlier said that the school van driver was to be blamed for the deaths. "I am told that the school van driver was wearing earphones while driving... this is a case of pure negligence," he said earlier in the day.
Officials have claimed that a "Gate Mitra (friend)" - a person who alerts commuters about approaching trains at unmanned crossings - tried to stop the van when the train on its way to Gorakhpur from Siwan in Bihar. But it was too late.
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