Fatal railway injuries may be sustained in the following ways –
1. While walking along the rail or track.
2. While crossing the rail or track.
3. Jumping in front of a.running train.
4. When a person is pushed suddenly in front of a running train.
5. When a suicide lies down on the railway when a train is coming.
6. When an unconscious’ person is laid on the track.
7. When a person accidentally falls or intentionally jumps or is pushed down from a running train.
8. When the head or some other part of the body is extended out of the door or window of a running train.
9. When two trains collide.
10. When a train is derailed.
11. When there is outbreak of fire in a running train.
12. When passengers standing on the roof of the train are electrocuted by the high tension live wire electric current, or are struck against an overhead structure e.g. an overbridge.
In any case of run over by train or if there is collision or derailment, there will be gross mutilation of the bodies of the victims with loss of detail features of the individual injuries.
1. If the victim was walking on the rail track, then depending on whether he was moving in the same direction with the train or in the opposite direction, the impact injuries will be on the back or in front. If he is thrown out of the track, then, there may not be any gross mutilation of the body, but there will be secondary injuries on the body. If he is run over, then there will be gross clumsy mutilation of the body and then it cannot be made out which of the injuries were the result of the primary impact.
2. If the person sustains the injuries while crossing the track, then, there will be primary impact injuries on one side of the body. There is some chance that, the body may be thrown outside the track, without gross mutilation.
3. When a person jumps in front of a running train to commit suicide, then, primary impact injuries will be on one side of the body as while crossing. But the chance of being thrown out of the track is less and hence chance of total mutilation of the body is comparatively more.
4. If the victim was pushed in front of the running train, then, due to stooping of the body, chance of the train knocking the upper part of the body is more with resultant amputation of the body at any level.
5. When with the intention to commit suicide, a person lies across the track with the neck resting on the rail, then there will be severance of the neck. Except the head, in such a case, rest of the body may be grossly mutilated.
6. When a dead body is laid on the track with an intention to obliterate the cause of death by a running train, considerable success may be there if postmortem examination is not done very meticulously, When a person is strangled to death and the dead body is subjected to be run over within a short period by placing it on the track with the neck on one side rail, then very important findings on the neck in support of strangulation, will be lost.
7. When the victim falls accidentally or jumps down intentionally or is pushed down from the running train, then he sustains blunt force mechanical injuries like bruise, abrasion, laceration and fracture of bones. These bodies may not get run over and may be detected by the side of the railway track.
8. If the head or a body part, is extended out of a running train through a window or door and strikes a pillar or any structure, then, gross damage occurs to that part due to the forceful impact.
9. When two trains collide, then any injury of any severity may be caused to passengers due to impact with different internal parts of the compartment, or the overhead luggages. There may be fracture of the vertebrae and compression of the spine (Railway spine).
10. When a running train is derailed, then any type of injury of any severity may be caused, to any number of passengers. If the derailed train jumps down a bridge in a river then mass drowning deaths occur.
11. If fire outbreaks inside a compartment of a running train, then in addition to burn injuries of any degree and any extent, some of the passengers may sustain mechanical injuries due to jumping out of the compartment.
12. Passengers standing on the roof of a train, may get electrocuted, sustain flash burn injury and may also sustain mechanical injuries due to subsequent fall. In some other cases such passengers may sustain only fatal mechanical injuries, particularly over the head, when the train, say for example, passes through a tunnel or the head strikes any overhead structure like an over-bridge.
Medicolegal aspects –
Railway deaths are mostly accidental and then suicidal. Homicidal deaths are very very rare.
Identification of the victims may become difficult due to gross mutilation, though identification is very much essential for compensation and succession of property points of view and many other purposes.
In cases of post mortem run over by a train, due to the chance of obliteration of the actual cause of death, the postmortem examination must be most thoroughly done. In any case, the possibility of railway injuries being postmortem in nature, must be kept in mind by the autopsy surgeon.
In some cases of collision or derailment, fear and vagal shock may alone cause death.