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12 injured in train and tanker collision in Kota Kinabalu (Update #5)

  • Tanker driver in Sabah train crash released on police bail
  • Update: Is there a lawsuit in the works? Ironically, the lawsuit would be filed against the Sabah State Railways!
  • Update: More information on the investigation into the train crash!
  • Update: Was the collision between a train and tanker an accident waiting to happen??? Who will be held responsible?
  • Updated with additional articles, pictures and videos!
  • Updated with video!

TRANSIT took note of a scary and some might say hellish event that took place in Kota Kinabalu on 31 October – a fiery crash between a train and fully-laden petrol tanker.

12 injured in train and tanker collision in Kota Kinabalu (The Star, 31 October 2011)

The scene of the explosion after a commuter train collided with a fuel tanker at a railway crossing in Kepayan, Sabah. - 31 October, 2011. Image courtesy of The Star.
The scene of the explosion after a commuter train collided with a fuel tanker at a railway crossing in Kepayan, Sabah. - 31 October, 2011. image courtesy of The Star.
The Fire and Rescue team succesfully douses the blaze. - 31 October, 2011. Image courtesy of The Star.
Firefighters at a level crossing where a passenger train crashed into an oil tanker in Jalan Kota Kinabalu-Petagas, Kota Kinabalu, yesterday. — NST picture by Malai Rosmah Tuah
Train wreck: A crane removing the burnt train at the scene of the accident Tuesday. Image courtesy of The Star.

KOTA KINABALU: A huge explosion ripped through a commuter train with 200 passengers after it collided with a fuel tanker at an “unmanned” railway crossing near a petrol station in Kepayan here. At least 12 people were seriously injured.

Most passengers scrambled out from the rear driver’s compartments as they fled the inferno that spread almost immediately following the impact between the four carriages and the Shell tanker.

But 34 of the 200 passengers could not be traced though police have ascertained, as of 7.45pm, that no one else was inside the wrecked carriages.

However, a detailed search is being carried by police, firemen and Sabah Railway staff.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said the train impacted the tank section of the lorry carrying some 27,000litres of petrol as it was heading into the Shell station to deliver the fuel.

Upon impact, the first carriage derailed while the second unit landed atop the tanker that exploded at the crossing which Sabah Railways director Mohd Zin Mohd Said had classified as “illegal.”

Hamza said at 7.45pm that there were no deaths “as yet” and they have detained the driver of the oil tanker for questioning while the train driver Ali Ramli, 50, escaped injuries.

Ambulances carrying the injured to the hospital were trapped in a massive traffic snarl due to motorists slowing down or stopping indiscriminately to watch the accident and the situation was further aggravated by a heavy thunderstorm.

The colonial railway is the only commercial rail line in Borneo Island that operates services from Kota Kinabalu to west coast towns and interior Tenom.

“This is the worst mishap in our history,” said Mohd Zin.


We hope that there is no life lost from this incident and that those missing are found quickly. We also pray for those injured and hope that their pain is minimized.

We can comment on the situation that caused the crash, but it is probably better to hold off now and wait until everyone is accounted for.

Additional articles:

Check out this video of the fiery aftermath. You can see the petrol station in question at the end.

Note the MAHB Fire Tender in the video above.

And now the big question: Could this crash have been avoided? And what does the Sabah State Railways Department have to say about the situation?

Train crash: A danger waiting to happen (Free Malaysia Today)
Michael Kaung
November 1, 2011

Despite spending millions of ringgit, some of the automatic gates at major railway crossings are not functioning.

KOTA KINABALU: The morning after the train crash outside the Kota Kinabalu International Airport here has provoked fear and anger among city residents, with many saying that “it was an accident just waiting to happen”.

Widespread dissatisfaction and complaints have been brewing for years now over the railway line that has been plagued by controversy since the government approved a contract to upgrade the tracks a few years ago.

In an immediate reaction to yesterday’s collision between a passenger train and a fuel tanker in which eight people were injured, Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan said all illegal crossing along the railway track will be closed.

How the authorities intend to do this could not be ascertained as there are scores of such crossings all along the track.

It is the only access to hundreds, if not thousands, of dwellings on the other side of the track.

Pairin, who is Infrastructure Development Minister, said that his ministry would launch an investigation into claims that some of the automatic gates recently put up for thousands of ringgit at major level crossings are not functioning.

The collision between the petrol-laden fuel tanker and the passenger train on its way to Beaufort caused a fireball and sparked fires along the track.

Scores of motorists panicked when they saw the accident while on their way home.

“Oh my god! Oh my god!” was all one observer could say as she filmed the flames and smoke with her cellphone and later found its way onto the Internet.

Repeated collisions

The word on the ground has always been that something is not quite right about the way the line has been “upgraded”, with the number of level crossings cutting through major roads and junctions as it comes to the station in the city.

There are even private roads crossings the tracks to scores of individual houses all along the route from Beaufort to Tanjong Aru and even more when the line to Tenom opens.

Most of the roads are illegal and have been so for decades.

Numerous vehicle-train collisions over the years should have served as a warning for last night’s inevitable accident, residents of houses and workshops along the route said.

One long-time resident, a civil servant, who recently sold his house across the railway tracks, said it was a disgrace that the authorities did not provide a safe crossing for those living on the other side of the lines.

“The track is crisscrossed with roads to houses there. I was told that it is illegal to build a road or make a path across the lines when I applied for permission to get access to my land but still there are so many crossings.

“What are they (the authorities) doing about it? This is a big slap in their face.

“They know but have refused to act for years despite numerous accidents… you go check the papers. Perhaps now they will do something,” said the individual who asked not to be named.

Train badly burnt

While yesterday’s collision was an accident long in the making and which fortunately did not result in any fatalities, the state railway department has long been in a quandary.

Trains going in and out of the main station in Tanjong Aru do so about half a dozen times a day, once in the morning, again in the afternoon and a final time in the evening after offices close.

To provide feeder roads besides the railway tracks with crossings to the main highway over it at designated spots will be costly. But the alternative, as it stands now, will be dangerous.

For today at least, the route is safe. The line is closed to traffic and will be until it is cleared.

The main engine has been derailed and the two passenger carriages have been badly burned.


We are shocked and amazed that such blatant violation of the railway allowance was allowed to occur and continue. Clearly the Sabah State Railways Department as well as JPJ and emergency services have failed to do their job to prevent this incident from happening.

10 replies on “12 injured in train and tanker collision in Kota Kinabalu (Update #5)”

Other than the tanker driver, the railway department also has some explaining to do. Are they aware of the existence of the illegal crossing point? What steps were taken to prevent/discourage people from using it? Hopefully an independent investigation will establish all the facts and come up with the necessary recommendations.

I am 100% with you. The Railway Dept too has to look into it’s weakness. Looking at the graphic pictures in the newspaper to day, it appears that local authority and the people who manages the highway too will have to answer for this incident. But typical of Malaysians, let an ugly incident to take place first before acting. As if they cannot think ahead.

Not to mention the petrol company (Shell Timur Sdn. Bhd. – as well as the petrol dealer & haulage company – involved.

TRANSIT certainly hopes that those people injured in the crash will sue the pants off the Sabah State Railways, Police, Fire & Rescue, and the petrol company involved.

Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

I am not going to dwelve into politics here, but the illegal crossings became an issue ever since the railway upgrading was started some years back. It was supervised by KTMB and the project was awarded to two contractors. There was a suggestion for the railway to be elevated along the way from Tanjung Aru to Putatan and onward to Lok Kawi but KTMB shot down the plan due to high cost.

This is what I think: Better to spend large sums of money for long term benefit.

The suggestion was shot down but not by KTMB. As you said, KTMB was merely the supervisor. It was shot down by the Federal Government, which funded the project.

yeah, seriously build an elevated viaduct in the middle of no where… The real problem here is education. The government needs to spend more on education among anything else, intense subsidy on transportation is not the way forward.

Ex. Toll Roads, MAHB, ERL

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