Night train crashes in Germany, at least six dead

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A European overnight train hurtled off the tracks early Sunday near Cologne, killing at least six people aboard and injuring more than 100, including about 20 seriously, authorities said. Police said the train may have been speeding.

A European overnight train hurtled off the tracks early Sunday near Cologne, killing at least six people aboard and injuring more than 100, including about 20 seriously, authorities said. Police said the train may have been speeding.

One car flipped on its side and another was crushed against a steel post as the sleeper train, heading from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to Basel, Switzerland, with about 300 passengers, derailed shortly after midnight at a switch in a Cologne suburb, said German railways spokesman Manfred Ziegerath.

Scores of rescue workers using heavy equipment and search dogs broke open mangled blue coaches and combed the debris throughout the night after the accident at the station of the small town of Bruehl. As day broke on the floodlit scene, rescue crews prepared to lift wrecked coaches under which police said more dead might be buried.

Lead police investigator Winrich Granitzka said the nine-car train apparently had been going too fast. "From the looks of it, it's rather unlikely that the train was observing the 40 kilometer an hour (25 mph) speed limit at the accident site," he told reporters at the scene.

Police said the train's engine went over the embankment, smashed through a garage and into a house, but the people inside were unscathed. Damage was worst in the coach that toppled and another that had slammed into a support for the station roof.

"I was already sleeping and then a big crash woke me up," said a woman living about 100 meters (300 feet) from the crash site who declined to give her name. "I've never heard so many sirens."

Police said at least six people died, revising an earlier figure of seven dead. Some 130 people were injured, 20 of them seriously. Doctors had to amputate one man's leg to free him from the wreckage.

The train driver was not injured but in shock, police said.

Witnesses said many young people were among the travelers. Passengers included Dutch, British, Japanese, Americans and Italians, said Granitzka. A 50-member ski tour group from the Netherlands that suffered no injuries continued its trip later Sunday.

The train had just left Cologne main station on one of Germany's main international routes when it derailed at 12:13 a.m. (2313 GMT) after crossing a series of switches to avoid track work, police said.

Ziegerath said the train left the tracks at a switch when it returned to the main line.

Railway authorities and prosecutors were investigating the cause of the accident, Germany's deadliest since the June 1998 crash of a high-speed IntercityExpress that killed 101 people at Eschede. The cause of that crash was found to be a broken wheel.

Sunday's crash seemed certain to revive questions about German rail safety lingering since the Eschede disaster. The railways set up a telephone hotline.

Comments