Railway accidents

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 May 2000



(2000), "Railway accidents", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 9 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/dpm.2000.07309bac.003



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Railway accidents

Railway accidents

7 January 1999 - Liaoning Province, China

Two trains collided in China's north-eastern Liaoning province on Sunday (3 January), killing 24 people, a railway official said today. The railway official, who was posted near the scene of the accident, said that 23 people had been injured when a freight train slammed into a passenger train outside Tiefa city. The railway official said that both trains belonged to the state run Tiefa Mining Bureau, and that the passenger train was used to shuttle miners to and from work. A city government official said the cause of the crash was under investigation. The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China put the number of injured at 100, of whom at least ten were in critical condition. Of the dead, 22 died instantly and two others died later in a local hospital, the centre said in a statement.

15 March 1999 - Anaheim, California, USA

US passenger railroad Amtrak said its well-known "City of New Orleans" train hit a steel-hauling truck at a crossing south of Chicago last night, knocking cars off the track in a fiery crash that injured a number of people. Local broadcast reports said as many as 40 people were injured. Television pictures from the scene showed what appeared to be two locomotives and five passenger cars in a jumbled, smoking heap. One passenger car was overturned but the other four that left the track appeared to have remained upright. Amtrak said the accident happened at 22.55 hrs, EDT, at a crossing north of Bourbonnais, about 50 miles south of Chicago. There were 14 passenger cars in the train, the railroad said. CNN reported that hospital officials said they were preparing to treat "hundreds of patients". CBS radio said there were about 500 passengers on board. The train had left Chicago about an hour before the accident en route south on its overnight run to New Orleans.16 March 1999 - At least 12 people have been killed and more that 100 injured after a US Amtrak train hit a lorry and left the rails. Eight carriages came off the track and burst into flames in the accident at Bourbonnais, 50 miles south of Chicago. The "City of New Orleans" train was carrying 215 passengers when it slammed into the lorry which was packed with a load of steel. Most of the injured were reported to be in a sleeper car at the front of the train.Hours after last night's crash, rescue workers were still sifting through the twisted wreckage of the "City of New Orleans" train, searching for more victims. Amtrak officials said the train was equipped with a "black box" that had been located. Mike Hatshbarger, fire chief in Bourbonnais, said all of the known victims died in a sleeper car near the front of the train, which was broken in the centre and ravaged two-thirds of its length by a fire. The fire was fed by spilled diesel fuel from one of the engines which split open the double-decker car. The town's police chief, Joseph Beard, said there had been no problem with the crossing in the past. The gates do not appear to be broken and they are in up or semi-up position, he told a news briefing today. The truck driver, an independent hauler who lived near Manteno, IL, survived the crash. He had just left a Birmingham Steel Corp. plant with a load of rolled steel bars. Beard said the load had been checked when the truck left the plant and it was within legal limits for size and weight. There were conflicting reports on the number of victims. Amtrak said 13 had died and 127 were injured out of 216 people on the train. The fire chief said there were two fewer people on the train, 214, and that there were 12 dead and six unaccounted for. Most of the victims were taken to two hospitals in nearby Kankakee. The train's two locomotives and all but the last three of the 14 passenger cars left the tracks. The engines and the first five cars were tossed and stacked and the rails twisted in every direction. The train of double-decker passenger cars had left Chicago on Monday evening for its overnight run to New Orleans. Amtrak said it hit the truck less than two hours later, at about 22.55 hrs, EST (03.55 GMT).17 March 1999 - Officials said today they had confirmed that 11 people, not 13, were killed in Monday's (15 March) Amtrak passenger train crash, but that it was still uncertain how many people were on the train. Meanwhile, investigators scoured a set of muddy tyre tracks to determine if the driver of a truck that the train hit had driven around lowered crossing gates. They also said they planned to re-enact the accident to try to gain clues. John Goglia, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, told a briefing the local coroner now believed that 11 people - not 13 as he reported the day before - died in Monday night's crash, one of the worst US passenger train crashes in recent years. He criticised Amtrak, saying he was "frustrated" that 36 hours after the accident, the carrier still could not say exactly how many people were on the train. He said the coroner would conduct a thorough investigation of the charred sleeping car where all of the victims were found to make sure there were no other bodies. Amtrak has said it believes there were 216 people on the "City of New Orleans" when it struck the truck at a crossing south of Chicago. Safety investigators have not been able to reconcile that figure with the number of survivors and bodies they have counted, saying earlier in the day that perhaps three people were still unaccounted for. About 25 people of the more than 100 who were injured were still in hospital. Goglia, in an interview on WBBM-TV, the CBS affiliate in Chicago, said a recording device on board the train clearly showed that the engineer, who survived, blew his horn twice and was trying to brake the train. He also said there was no doubt that the signal device at the crossing was working correctly. Three passengers were still officially unaccounted for but rescue workers had finished tearing apart the wreckage and would soon know if there were any more victims, Goglia said. The trucker, John Stokes, has been quoted as saying he did not see the crossing lights until he was already in the intersection. Amtrak's "City of New Orleans" clipped the rear end of his flatbed truck carrying tons of steel rod, causing a derailment that turned catastrophic when the train's coaches slammed against idle freight cars and piled up. Goglia said earlier that the engineer said the gates were already down when the truck entered the crossing. Robert Lauby, director of the Office of Railroad Safety for the safety board, said today that one question remaining was whether the tyre tracks were fresh ones since the same truck may have crossed the tracks to a nearby steel plant before. Investigators will try to recreate the circumstances of the crash using a similar truck and locomotive to try to find out what the driver may have been able to see, Lauby said. "What we're interested in is who saw what, when and who could have seen what when", he said, adding that the re-enactment will be done at the same time - late at night - that the accident occurred. Goglia said investigators would also try to interview the driver more extensively today. Goglia said tests showed a vehicle would have had 27 seconds to get clear given the train's speed of 79 mph. He said two boxcars, one loaded with steel, parked on an adjacent track may have "contributed substantially" to the severity of the accident. The lighter passenger cars bounced into them after the collision with the truck caused a derailment.19 March 1999 - A press report, dated 18 March, states: A motorist who claims to have been directly behind the truck involved in the deadly Amtrak collision said the driver tried to snake through lowered crossing gates and beat the train, a high-level federal source said today. The National Transportation Safety Board source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said investigators believe the motorist is credible and had a clear view of the accident, which killed 11 people and injured more than 100. "We are continuing to interview him, but his statements are not inconsistent with what the engineer originally said", the source said. Amtrak's chairman, Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, had said the train's engineer claimed the truck driver tried to zig-zag his tractor-trailer through the crossing gates after they had come down. John Goglia, of the NTSB, said today there is still no indication the crossing signal malfunctioned and in a re-enactment of the crash using a truck and locomotive, the truck was able to zigzag around the downed crossing gates without hitting them. The trucker, 58-year-old John Stokes, told investigators the gates came down after he started across the tracks. Since then, he has hired a lawyer, and the attorney has barred authorities from questioning his client any further. Thirty of the agency's investigators have been looking for the cause of the wreck.

25 January 1999 - Shahdadpur, Pakistan

At least 13 persons were killed and another five critically injured and hospitalised when a truck was hit and blasted to pieces by an oncoming Express Taiz Gaam train in Shahdadpur, Interior Sindh Province, at a gateless Sarhaari Railway crossing line. An inquiry, however, has been launched to investigate the cause of the incident. The train was travelling from Karachi to Lahore.

24 March 1999 - Tsavo National Park Area, Kenya

At least 50 people were feared killed in a train crash on Kenya's main Nairobi-Mombasa railroad today, police said. They said further details were not immediately available, but the accident happened at Man-eaters, a junction near Tsavo National Park, approximately 186 miles south-east of the capital. A spokeswoman for the Kenya Railways Corporation said the overnight passenger train travelling from the capital to Mombasa derailed at around 04.00 hrs, local time. "I don't know how many people have been killed but there are quite a lot of injured people", she said. She said a Kenya Air Force plane had already airlifted some of the most serious casualties to hospitals in Nairobi. Others were taken to a hospital in the nearby town of Voi. It was not clear how many passengers were on the train but the spokeswoman said the service, often used by tourists travelling to Kenya's coastal resorts, usually carried around 300 people.24 March 1999 - A Kenyan passenger train carrying hundreds of foreign tourists and Kenyans to Mombasa derailed at high speed today, killing at least 30 people. Police initially said that at least 50 people were feared killed. They later said they had confirmed 30 dead but expected the toll to rise. Witnesses said at least 23 foreigners on their way to beach holidays were critically injured, including Americans, Germans and Canadians and that dozens more were unaccounted for. The overnight train, popular among tourists travelling from Nairobi to the coastal resorts near Mombasa, derailed near a junction called Man-eaters around 200 miles south-east of the capital. Survivors of the accident said the train was barrelling along at high speed when it jumped the tracks, flipping one carriage upside-down and at least four others on to their sides. "There were a lot of dead and dying," said Daniel Burstow, a 20-year-old Briton. "One of the carriages in third class was thrown upside-down and that is where the people died", said Michael Greenwood, a US citizen. They said survivors were unable to escape through the train doors so had to break windows to free themselves. "All the doors were locked and nobody had the keys to unlock them", Greenwood said. A French embassy official said 86 French nationals were on the train but it was not known if any were hurt. A Kenyan Air Force plane airlifted 23 critically injured foreigners to Nairobi's Wilson Airport. A spokeswoman for the African Medical Research Foundation (Amref) private medical charity said it believed around 400 passengers were on the train when it derailed at about 04.30 hrs, local time and that most of the dead were travelling in the third class section. It was not clear how many tourists were on the train but they generally travel in the first or second class sections while the third class section is used by poorer Kenyans. Kenya's police, army and National Disaster Committee were leading the rescue effort with help from Amref and the Kenyan Red Cross. Amref said it was flying down three small planes with doctors and medical supplies and the Kenyan Red Cross was sending in first aid volunteers and medical supplies by road. "They are having trouble finding an airstrip close by", said Nina Galbe, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross.25 March 1999 - Thirty-two people died in yesterday's train crash in south-east Kenya, including one Frenchwoman, police said today. Earlier, state-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation said 34 people had been killed, but police said the correct figure was 32. They also corrected their early reports that five foreigners had died in the crash, saying the figure had been inflated in the confusion of the crash aftermath. "There was one foreigner killed, a Frenchwoman", said police spokesman Dola Indidis. The runaway train carrying 614 people, including 70 foreigners, to Mombasa, jumped its tracks before dawn yesterday. Indidis said 254 people were injured in the crash, 115 of whom were admitted to hospitals in the nearby town of Voi as well as Nairobi and Mombasa. One British citizen and 18 French nationals were among those kept overnight in hospital. The bodies of the 31 Kenyan dead have been flown to Nairobi, while the Frenchwoman's body was flown to Mombasa.

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