Less than a week after Royal Railway restarted passenger train service in Cambodia after a 14-year hiatus, a locomotive plowed into a Lexus SUV that was crossing a set of tracks in Kandal province on Thursday morning, injuring the family inside.
Investigators, however, say the driver of the SUV was to blame for the crash.
Ros Sokhon, 59, was driving his wife and four teenage children to a pagoda in Kandal Stung district, and crossed the tracks with seeming disregard for the approaching passenger train, which was en route to Sihanoukville, according to district police chief Mern Chanrith.
“It was the carelessness of the car driver, because he crossed the railway tracks without paying attention. The train always blows the horn about 300 meters or 500 meters before passing a town or passing a crossing,” Mr. Chanrith said.
“There were no trees or buildings that would have obscured the train at the crossing. I wonder why the car driver kept driving over the railway tracks when the train was coming,” he said.
The police chief said Mr. Sokhon and all five passengers were recovering from injuries sustained in the crash at a hospital in Phnom Penh.
He said two members of the family suffered serious wounds, but that he did not know which ones.
The accident comes after a man was found dead on the tracks in Kampot province’s Kompong Trach district on Wednesday morning—his right leg severed and part of his skull sliced off—likely after being hit by a cargo train.
“The train might have hit the victim at about 1:30 a.m on Wednesday because the blood of the victim was dry” when he was found, said Buth Orng, a deputy commune police chief in Kompong Trach district.
Mr. Orng said the man had yet to be identified, but was thought to have been suffering from a mental illness, given his filthy appearance.
Royal Railway CEO John Guiry said on Thursday that he had reviewed a video footage of Thursday’s crash in Kandal—captured by a camera mounted to the front of the train—which supported the police’s conclusion.
“I can clearly see that he’s watching the train and he drives in front and then he stops, looks at it and then drives off. And as he drives off we hit him,” Mr. Guiry said.
“The reason I say is that…here they drive like they do on a moto, and they actually think if I’m here then you’ll stop,” he said.
Asked about the corpse found in Kampot, Mr. Guiry said there was “no evidence” that the man had been struck by a train, and that his company was awaiting a police report.
He said Royal Railway—which restarted passenger service between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville this weekend ahead of the Khmer New Year holiday—was taking measures to improve safety as it seeks to develop the country’s rail network.
“We already have boom barriers operated by our employees at major level crossings, we conduct a risk assessment that helps us identify the risk level at crossings. We employ approx. 50 people to operate the crossings protection,” he said in an email.
“In 2 to 3 months we will have automatic boom barriers on 8 crossings that are operated by the train, we will keep the level crossing guards at the crossings for up to 3 months until people get used to them.”