French train crash: Minister rules out human error – #France

The train crash south of Paris which left six people dead was not caused by human error, Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier says.

The train and station were busy for the start of a holiday weekend

The train and station were busy for the start of a holiday weekend

Speaking on French radio, Mr Cuvillier praised the train driver for averting an even more serious accident.

The train had just left Paris on Friday afternoon and was heading for Limoges when it derailed at Bretigny-sur-Orge.

Thirty people were injured in the accident, eight of them seriously. Rescuers are searching the wreckage.

‘Extraordinary reflexes’

Six carriages derailed during the accident at 17:14 (15:14 GMT). The train’s third and fourth carriages derailed first and the others followed. One mounted the station platform.

Investigations will be undertaken by the state rail company, SNCF, judicial authorities and France’s BEA safety agency.

Speaking on RTL radio, Mr Cuvillier said the train driver had reacted quickly to the accident: “Fortunately, the driver of the locomotive had absolutely extraordinary reflexes in that he sounded the alarm immediately, preventing a collision with another train coming in the opposite direction and which would have hit the derailing carriages within seconds. So it is not a human problem.”

He said investigators would be concentrating on the rolling stock, the infrastructure, and, in particular, the points.

Local media said a group of people had attempted to steal from the victims shortly after the crash, by pretending to be taking part in the rescue efforts. They reportedly threw stones at emergency workers as they tried to reach passengers.

French transport routes were particularly busy at the time of the crash due to the run-up to a holiday weekend marking Sunday’s Bastille Day. SNCF said 385 passengers were on board when the train crashed. The station platforms were crowded.

French President Francois Hollande visited the scene on Friday evening to express his shock at the accident.

He said that the station would be closed for three days while investigations were carried out.

“We should avoid unnecessary speculation. What happened will eventually be known and the proper conclusions will be drawn,” he said.

British student Marvin Khareem Wone was on a train on another platform when the carriages of the intercity ploughed into the station.

Worst French train accidents

  • Jul- Aug 1985: More than 80 killed in three separate train crashes in Paris, the south-west and north
  • Jun 1988: 56 killed when two suburban trains collide at Gare de Lyon in Paris
  • Oct 1991: 16 die in collision between Nice-Paris sleeper and freight train

“The train went off the railway; it just went on the platform and kind of flew in the air for a second and went upside down,” he told the BBC.

“The first and the second coach were completely destroyed. I really thought no-one could survive that because it was completely mashed up. Everyone was crying and running everywhere. A woman was crying for her daughter who was still on the train.”

‘Images of war’

Because of the damage to the station, he said ambulances could not reach the platform and the lift was not working.

Other media reports spoke of passengers being electrocuted and crushed.

“I saw many wounded women children trapped inside,” Vianey Kalisa, who was waiting for his train from Bretigny to Paris, told AFP.

“People were screaming. A man had blood on his face. These are images of war,” he said.

The train had left Paris-Austerlitz station at 16 :53 local time and was due to arrive at Limoges-Benedictins at 20:05, SNCF said in a statement.

The BBC’s Hugh Schofield says that in May, the company warned passengers that points work was being carried out in the area, where intercity and commuter lines dovetail.

It is not clear if the earlier points problems are connected with Friday’s crash, he says.

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