As the country tried to recover from its shock and agony over the horrifying bus-train disaster at Alawwa, top police officers added to the shock yesterday by revealing there was evidence that the driver and the conductor of the death-bus acted with criminal negligence because they had taken liquor with breakfast.
Police Chief Chandra Fernando and Deputy Inspector General Asoka Ratnaweera who is leading investigations on the rail crossing carnage which left at least 37 dead and more than 60 injured said small hotels at which long distance buses stop for refreshments for passengers were known to supply liquor to the bus crew.
They said all police stations had been ordered to check on alleged liquor supplies to bus crew by hotels.
The driver of the bus is still lying unconscious in the Kurunegala hospital while the conductor who was produced in court yesterday, was ordered to be remanded and taken back to hospital as public agitation and anger grew over the negligence of private bus crew.
Police said the driver and the conductor were under police guard as several threats had been received and some furious people armed with sharp objects had tried to break into the hospital on Wednesday night.
Responding to the public outrage Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse said yesterday, transport laws would be amended soon to impose tough punishment on negligent bus crews.
Private Bus Operators Association President Gemunu Wijeratne though blaming the government for indiscriminately issuing licences and route permits on political grounds said they were conducting their own inquiries and would take action against the bus owner.
Meanwhile the National Transport Commission has requested family members of the bereaved to contact the Commission on telephone number 011 2554476 for compensation.
According to reports the bus ignored barriers at a level-crossing and was hit while trying to zip past the tracks, sparking outrage across the country.
Witnesses said the bus was trying to race past another to grab more passengers ahead and that the conductor had got off the bus and signalled it to proceed across the track though the signal`s operator at the rail crossing had screamed for it to stop.
Police said the bus on that fateful day was not in the hands of the usual driver.