The Polgahawela level crossing accident was a collision between a bus travelling from Galkiriyagama to Colombo and a train at a level crossing in Yangalmodara, near Polgahawela in Kurunegala district on 27 April 2005 at 8.30 local time, which resulted in the death of 41 people.
The bus was struck by an intercity express train from Colombo to Kandy. "The signal was green and the level-crossing gates were closed, then I saw the bus trying to cross and the next thing I know, the engine was hitting the rear of the bus.", the train's driver, H. A. Sirisena, was quoted as saying "After the first impact, the bus spun around and hit the train again. I have been in this job for 41 years, and this is the first time something like this has happened". It was thought that the bus was participating in a race with another local privately owned and operated bus, with the intention of gathering more and more passengers from the next main town. The bus driver, A. W. Haprool Azad, did not see the train in his haste. The driver, who survived with only a broken ankle, initially refused to speak about the accident to investigators.
The bus was destroyed and the wreckage caught fire, killing many of the injured people strewn on the tracks in front of the train, which managed to stop shortly after striking the bus. It was thought that more than 35 people were killed in the disaster. All survivors from the bus sustained injuries. None of the train's passengers or crew were injured in the accident.
The barriers on the crossing only covered the lane for oncoming traffic, allowing the bus to drive through on the wrong side of the road with visibility obscured further due to vegetation in area. The Sri Lankan government promised to prevent races by private bus companies, who competed for customers by advertising fast journeys, often violating traffic laws to do so. It also promised to prosecute irresponsible road users.
In April 2013, the bus driver, as well as bus conductor, M. G. Buddhika Ruwan Kumara, were sentenced to death by Kurunagala High Court, the first death sentences handed down in Sri Lanka for a road traffic offence.
- List of rail accidents in Sri Lanka
- List of rail accidents (2000–present)
- List of level crossing accidents
- Ramanayake, Wasantha (April 23, 2004). "Bus illegally driven round the end of the level crossing barrier". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). Retrieved February 6, 2014.
- Agencies (2005-04-27). "50 killed in Sri Lanka level crossing crash". the Guardian. Retrieved 2022-07-15.