Runaway luxury train derails in S.Africa, 3 dead

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The death toll has risen to three after a luxury train filled with American and other foreign tourists sped out of control and derailed in South Africa, the rail company's chief said Thursday.

Rovos Rail Managing Director Rohan Vos told The Associated Press a third employee died overnight. Two others, including a pregnant woman, died at the scene of Wednesday's accident.

One passenger remained hospitalized in critical condition Thursday and six other passengers remained in hospitals, but their conditions were not as serious, Vos said. The U.S. Embassy said four Americans were among those still hospitalized.

Vos gave the passenger breakdown as 40 Americans, five South Africans, four each from France and Britain, and two from Germany, slightly revising figures he had given a day earlier. He added 27 South African crew members also were aboard.

Vos said while passengers were relatively safe in coaches, some dating back to the 1920s, staff had been in a kitchen area that was less protected.

The cause of the derailment was still being investigated.

The Rovos Rail voyage had begun in Cape Town and was close to its destination in Pretoria when it stopped for what is usually a routine change from an electric to a steam locomotive, said Nothemba Dlali of Metro Rail, which oversees rail service in South Africa's major population centers. The train trip is billed as a re-creation of the golden age of travel.

Dlali said the train began moving after the electric locomotive was removed but before the steam engine could be attached, and gathered speed while rolling down a slope.

Power tools had to be used to cut some passengers from the wreckage. Crumpled cars on their sides with broken windows littered the site.

The train derailment comes just seven weeks before hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists are expected to descend upon South Africa for the World Cup.

Rovos Rail's two-day Cape Town-Pretoria trip can cost from about $1,500 to nearly $3,000 per passenger. Rovos Rail also offers trips to Namibia, Tanzania, Victoria Falls, and as far north as Cairo. The trains combine Edwardian period features such as wood paneling with modern conveniences like air conditioning and hot showers.