Published August 08, 2008
PRAGUE, Czech Republic – A long-distance train from Poland carrying hundreds of passengers smashed into a collapsed bridge and partially derailed in the Czech Republic on Friday, killing seven people and injuring at least 67, officials said.
It was the worst train accident in the Czech Republic since 1995, when 19 people died in one, and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk, were both heading for the site of Friday's crash, their offices said.
"At this moment, it is important to help those who have suffered," Topolanek said in a statement. "Only then, we will have time to thoroughly investigate the incident, to find the culprit and to eventually compensate (the victims). It is clear that any financial compensation cannot relieve the pain and sadness of all those who have been affected by this event."
The accident occurred at about 10:30 a.m. Friday near the eastern town of Studenka when parts of a bridge under reconstruction tumbled onto the track as the train was approaching, Czech Railways spokesman Radek Joklik said.
The driver of the Prague-bound train — which was traveling at 85 mph — slammed on the emergency brakes but was unable to avoid crashing into the debris, said Jan Kucera, Czech Railways' inspection deputy chief.
The engine and the first four of the train's 10 carriages derailed, he said.
Five women and two men were killed. Sixty-seven people were injured and treated at nine hospitals, including 13 in serious condition, said Lukas Humpl, a spokesman for the local rescue service. Dozens of others suffered minor injuries, and rescue crews were scrambling to help victims at the scene.
The fatalities included five Czechs, a Polish national and a Ukrainian, officials said.
The driver of the train survived, according to rail officials.
The InterCity train was traveling from the Polish city of Krakow, with an estimated 500 people aboard, Joklik said.
Studenka is about 210 miles east of Prague.
Police spokeswoman Miroslava Michalkova Salkova said the hospitalized victims included two French nationals. Andrzej Jasionowski, head of the consular department at the Polish Foreign Ministry, said nine Poles were injured, two of them seriously.