Dozens injured in train collision on Germany's Zugspitze mountain

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The Independent Online

Dozens of tourists heading up Germany's highest peak, the Zugspitze in the Bavarian Alps, were injured Saturday when their cogwheel train collided head-on with another train heading down the mountain.

Dozens of tourists heading up Germany's highest peak, the Zugspitze in the Bavarian Alps, were injured Saturday when their cogwheel train collided head-on with another train heading down the mountain.

Five of the 57 people hurt were in critical condition, including the driver of one train who had serious head trauma and leg injuries, Red Cross emergency team leader Andreas Geuther said at a news conference.

The 40-year-old man was flown to a hospital by helicopter after rescue workers freed his crushed legs from the wreckage.

The two trains were each going about 40 kph (25 mph) toward each other on a single track when they collided at the entrance to a tunnel, driving the engines into each other.

"Suddenly there was an impact, and then I was dazed for probably a few seconds," said one passenger, 54-year-old Hans Gruendel.

"When I opened my eyes again, I saw only debris. All the seats were torn out, the luggage racks were hanging down, several windows were smashed and all the people were lying on the ground."

The Zugspitzbahn, a cog-railway operated by a private firm, carries passengers from the resort towns of Garmisch-Partenkirchen to a station partway up the 2,962 meter (9,718-foot) peak, where they can transfer to a cable car to reach the summit.

The stretch where the collision occurred has only a single track, and it was unclear why both trains were on it at the same time. Peter Hirt, an official of the train operator, said human error by either the traffic controller or one of the train engineers was probably to blame.

The controller was suffering from shock and could not be immediately questioned, Hirt said.

Prosecutors confiscated the train data recorders and tapes of radio communication as part of their investigation.

Fifteen people in all had serious injuries, mostly to the chest and lungs from being thrown into the seat in front of them, officials said. Other injuries ranged from broken bones to shock.

The single-car train going up the mlometers (1.25 miles) from the station, at the entrance to the 100-meter (yard) Katzenstein tunnel, with the nearly empty, two-car train traveling on the same track in the opposite direction.

All the injured had been rescued from the wreck by midday; Geuther said some passengers got out themselves and walked back down the slope. Those with only minor injuries used their mobile phones to call for help, which arrived within 15 minutes.

The track was expected to remain closed over the weekend, Hirt said.

Last August, 16 people were injured on the Zugspitzbahn when one train stopped because of a technical problem and the train following it braked too late and hit it. Damage then was estimated at 500,000 marks.

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