Valdosta Daily Times

National, International News

July 14, 2013

Crane to clear train tracks in deadly French crash

BRETIGNY-SUR-ORGE, France — A powerful crane will start lifting smashed train cars over buildings Saturday to clear a railway line after a derailment killed six people and injured nearly 200 people south of Paris in what investigators believe may have been a case of equipment failure, authorities said.

Human error has been ruled out by France’s transport minister and the focus of the investigation is on a detached piece of metal in a switching joint on the tracks. The national rail company, SNCF, has already taken blame for Friday evening’s crash at Bretigny-Sur-Orge station, which occurred at the start of a busy holiday weekend.

“The SNCF considers itself responsible,” rail company chief Guillaume Pepy said. “It is responsible for the lives of its clients.”

The packed train, carrying around 385 passengers, was traveling below the speed limit at 137 kph (85 mph) when it derailed, skidded and slammed into the station platform in the small town outside the capital. It was 20 minutes into a scheduled three-hour trip to Limoges in central France.

The 700-ton crane, sent from northern France, towered over small buildings that surround the railway station to begin work on clearing the tracks.

The operation is an “extraordinarily difficult technique given that we are in a train station,” Pepy said. “For the moment, we don’t know how long it could take.” He said the operation could last through Sunday, which is the July 14 Bastille Day holiday, and into Monday, stressing the crane’s operators will be careful and slow in lifting the cars.

While the death toll hasn’t budged since hours after the crash and there haven’t been any reports of missing or unaccounted for people, the governor of the Essonne region, Michel Fuzeau, said that until an overturned train car is lifted by the crane, it was impossible to know if there could be more people trapped under it.

“This is only a hypothesis and we hope it’s not (the case),” he told reporters.

Pepy said investigators found that a 10-kilogram (22-pound) piece of metal he compared to a staple between two rails in a switching system, which guides trains from one track to another, seems to have “detached itself from the rails, lifted and constituted the initial cause of the derailment.”

Investigators were looking into how this happened since another train had traveled safely through the station about 30 minutes before. In addition, they were trying to determine why the train’s third car was the first to derail.

Pierre Izard, another SNCF official, said the metal piece “moved into the center of the switch and in this position it prevented the normal passage of the train’s wheels and it may have caused the derailment.”

But Pepy said track failure was a likely preliminary cause. “There can be no (definitive) answer in a few minutes, in a few days,” he said at a news conference.

The train was about 12 miles (20 kilometers) into its 250-mile (400-kilometer) journey to Limoges.

Passengers and officials in train stations throughout France held a minute of silence at noon to commemorate the accident. Hundreds of thousands of people were expected to take trains this weekend to the coast, mountains and to see family. Summer weekends are always busy on France’s extensive rail network, but this one is typically one of the busiest because of Bastille Day.

Fuzeau gave the latest casualty figures, saying that in addition to the dead, 22 people remained hospitalized, two of them in a life-threatening state. Nearly 200 people had initially been treated for injuries, either at the scene or at hospitals.

The crash was the country’s deadliest in years, but Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier said it could have been worse and praised the driver who sent out an alert quickly, preventing a pileup. Cuvillier acknowledged that there was some criticism that France hasn’t invested enough in maintaining infrastructure.

“But for the moment we have no information that allows us to confirm that the dilapidation of the network was the cause of this derailment,” he said on French television.

Keira Ichti, who lives in the town where the train crashed, said she was terrified when she found out about the accident because her daughter works at the station. It was “total panic. My heart was beating so fast. I had no strength,” the 56-year-old said.

She later found her daughter outside the station.

1
Text Only
National, International News
  • Stowaway teen forces review of airport security

    A 15-year-old boy found his way onto an airport’s tarmac and climbed into a jetliner’s wheel well, then flew for five freezing hours to Hawaii — a misadventure that forced authorities to take a hard look at the security system that protects the nation’s airline fleet.

    April 22, 2014

  • South Korea Ship Sink_Rich copy.jpg Death count in ferry sinking tops 100

    One by one, coast guard officers carried the newly arrived bodies covered in white sheets from a boat to a tent on the dock of this island, the first step in identifying a sharply rising number of corpses from a South Korean ferry that sank nearly a week ago.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP520422034 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, April 22, the 112th day of 2014. There are 253 days left in the year.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Immigration _Rich copy.jpg DHS secretary re-evaluating deportation priorities

    Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday he’s re-evaluating the Obama administration’s deportation priorities to make certain they’re focused on national security, public safety and border security, amid growing pressure from the Latino community and President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats. 

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Rethinking Pot 420_Rich copy.jpg Public smoke-out marks pot holiday in Colorado

    Tens of thousands of revelers raised joints, pipes and vaporizer devices to the sky Sunday at a central Denver park in a defiant toast to the April 20 pot holiday, a once-underground celebration that stepped into the mainstream in the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Submarine Sleep Sched_Rich copy.jpg Navy OKs changes for submariners’ sleep schedules

    With no sunlight to set day apart from night on a submarine, the U.S. Navy for decades has staggered sailors’ working hours on schedules with little resemblance to life above the ocean’s surface.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • South Korea Ship Sink_Rich copy.jpg Grim work for families as more bodies discovered

    There are no names listed as relatives huddle around signboards to identify bodies from a sunken ferry. Just the slimmest of clues about mostly young lives now lost. Many favored hoodies and track pants. One girl painted her fingernails red and toenails black. Another had braces on her teeth.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP600421099 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, April 21, 2014

    Today is Monday, April 21, the 111th day of 2014. There are 254 days left in the year.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Space Robot_Rich copy.jpg NASA’s Robonaut finally getting legs

    Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Nepal Everest Avalanc_Rich copy.jpg Another body pulled from snow in avalanche

    Search teams recovered a 13th body Saturday from the snow and ice covering a dangerous climbing pass on Mount Everest, where an avalanche a day earlier swept over a group of Sherpa guides in the deadliest disaster on the world’s highest peak.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Given the amount of rain recently, what's your favorite “rain” song?

Singing in the Rain
Purple Rain
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
November Rain
Rainy Night in Georgia
Other
     View Results