"As demon king Ravana's effigy was located very close to the railway tracks at Jaura Phatak, a section of the crowd retreated towards the tracks to watch the celebrations, nearly ignorant of standing on the tracks", local man Parminder Singh told Xinhua.
Dozens more were hurt in the accident, some of them seriously, and overwhelmed local hospitals ran out of space for the dead, forcing them to leave some bodies outside.
A crowd had formed near the tracks on the city's fringe for the burning of effigies, as part of a major Hindu festival last Friday when the train sped through the gathering in darkness, officials and witnesses said.
The route between Jalandhar and Amritsar was suspended, he said. Eyewitnesses said the Amritsar-Howrah train had crossed the spot minutes earlier.
Was permission granted for the event? They demanded compensation from the government and blamed authorities for the tragic incident.
Union Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha on Saturday ruled out action against the driver of the train, saying there had been no negligence on part of the railways.
Video clips being circulated clearly show that the organizers, including chief guest Navjot Kaur Sidhu (wife of Punjab local government minister Navjot Singh Sidhu) were well aware that hundreds of people were illegally standing on the railway tracks. Majithia had accused Navjot Kaur Sidhu of running away from the mishap site, alleging that she had left the venue without bothering for the victims.
Punjab state governor V.P. Singh Badnore said: "Those who need to be punished will be punished and accountability will be fixed".
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was extremely saddened by the train accident.
According to a Northern Railway spokesperson, the incident occurred at gate number 27 between Amritsar and Manawala, when a DMU (train number 74943) was crossing through the closed gate. As the effigy was lit and the fireworks started, a section of the crowd started retreating toward railroad tracks while observing the event.
The driver in his statement has said that he applied "emergency brakes" as he saw the crowd on the tracks but "still some people were caught in the path of the train".
Many bodies were badly dismembered and police said identification of the victims could take several days, officials said.
He said officials would do "everything possible" to assist the injured.
Railway police said 60 people died in a "freak accident" which happened when the sound of fireworks at the Dussehra festival on the outskirts of Amritsar made it impossible for people to hear the commuter train bearing down on them.