At least nine dead in German train crash, 100 injured

At least nine dead in German train crash, 100 injured

BAD AIBLING – Agence France-Presse
At least nine dead in German train crash, 100 injured Two commuter trains crashed head-on in southern Germany on Feb. 9, killing at least nine people and injuring more than 100, in one of the country’s deadliest rail accidents in years.

Hundreds of rescuers were scouring for more passengers trapped in the wreckage in a wooded area near Bad Aibling, a spa town about 60 kilometers southeast of Munich.

At least two carriages from one train were overturned, while the front of the other was crushed. Blue, yellow and silver metal debris was strewn around the crash site next to a river in the southern state of Bavaria.

“We now have nine dead,” said police spokesman Jürgen Thalmeier. One person was still missing, likely trapped in the wreckage, police added in a statement.

Eighteen people were seriously injured and 90 had light injuries, added police in a statement.

The two train drivers and two conductors were among those killed, local broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk reported.

An investigation is ongoing to determine if the accident was caused by “a technical problem or human error,” Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt told rolling news channel NTV from the scene.

The German rail track was fitted with an automatic braking system aimed at preventing such crashes, Dobrindt said.

The technology has been deployed across Germany’s rail network since 2011 and “this automatic train safety system was also fitted on this track,” he added. 

Hundreds of firefighters, emergency services workers and police officers were deployed in the rescue operation, which was complicated because the forest crash site was difficult to access, said Thalmeier.

Rescuers focused on the impact area of the trains, using electric saws to cut through the mangled wreckage.

Rescue workers from nearby Austria were also on site, NTV said.    

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “dismayed” over the accident.

“I am dismayed and saddened by the serious train accident this morning at Bad Aibling,” Merkel said in a statement. “My sympathy goes out especially to the families of the nine people who have lost their lives.”  
“My thoughts are also with the many injured who are struggling with the consequences of the accident. I wish them a speedy and full recovery,” the statement read. 

Merkel thanked the rescue services “for their tireless work... under difficult conditions” and said she was confident that the responsible authorities would “make every effort to clear up how this accident could happen.”

“The tragic accident occurred on the single-track route between Rosenheim and Holzkirchen this morning shortly after 7am (0600 GMT),” regional rail company Meridian, a subsidiary of the French group Transdev, said in a statement.

Rainer Scharf, a Bavarian police officer, said that “given the severity of the accident, we believe the two regional trains collided head-on at low speed.”

About a dozen helicopters were deployed, with television footage showing them waiting in a clearing outside the forest, from where rescuers were emerging with stretchers carrying the injured.

The rail stretch and two nearby roads were closed to traffic.