14 Jul 2016

Italy train crash probe looks at human error

11:19 am on 14 July 2016

The investigation into the head-on train crash in southern Italy that killed 27 people is focusing is focusing on outdated alert systems and human error.

Officials inspect the train crash site on July 13, 2016 near Corato, in the southern Italian region of Puglia as rescuers searched for missing bodies from the wreckage of a head-on collision that claimed at least 25 lives.

The scene of the deadly head-on train collision in southern Italy that has killed at least 27 people. Photo: AFP

Officials are looking into one of the black boxes recovered at the scene of the collision on a remote single-track line north of the city of Bari.

The system relied on telephone calls and "human error" remains the main line of inquiry, according to reports in the Italian Media.

Dozens of rescue workers are still searching the wreckage, and the inquiry is focusing on the lack of automatic signalling system on a small part of the Italian railway network.

Members of the Italian Dental Division inspect the train crash site on July 13, 2016 near Corato, in the southern Italian region of Puglia as rescuers searched for missing bodies

Members of the Italian Dental Division searching for missing bodies. Photo: AFP

The stretch of track between the towns of Andria and Corato in the southern region of Apulia where the crash happened did not have an automatic alert or brake system.

It relies on station masters phoning one another to advise of trains running on the single track.

The Associated Press news agency has quoted railway police Commander Giancarlo Conticchio as saying: "Surely one of the two trains shouldn't have been there".

"And surely there was an error. We need to determine the cause of the error," he said.

The collision took place in good weather at 11.30am (local time) as the trains were travelling at high speed between the towns of Bari and Barletta.

Both trains had four carriages.

Rescuers carry a coffin after a head-on collision between two trains, near Corato, in the southern Italian region of Puglia on July 12, 2016.

Rescuers carry away bodies after the fatal crash. Photo: AFP

Local officials said it was difficult to say how many people were on board the train at the time as there was no list.

Fifteen people are being treated in hospital for their injuries, and some of them remain in a critical condition.

Most passengers had no warning of the impending disaster which one witness compared to a plane crash.

One woman, eight months pregnant, described the moment of impact,.

"I was thrown forward, I don't know what happened, it all happened so quickly.

"I saw my mother on the ground, my father and my sister bleeding. The people on the train helped us."

One elderly man said he was knocked to the ground, while his wife described how she came across body parts as she freed him.

"I pulled him from under the debris, myself barefoot, from under the debris and metal," she told local TV.

"I went to my husband screaming. I pulled him by the legs and feet. I climbed past people in pieces, how sad. There was nothing I could do."'

Cranes and heavy lifting equipment have been clearing the wreckage and the army is helping the operation.

Relatives of the victims are going to the mortuary in Bari to help to identify the dead.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi visited the site on Tuesday and promised a full investigation.

He described the death toll as unacceptable.

Italy's deadly train accidents

  • November 2012: Six people believed to be Romanian farm workers were killed after a van they were travelling in was struck by a train as it crossed railway tracks in Calabria.
  • June 2009: Freight train carrying liquefied petroleum gas derailed in Viareggio, causing a large explosion. More than 30 people died.
  • January 2005: A head-on collision between a passenger and a freight train near Crevalcore killed 17.
  • July 2002: A passenger train derailed in Rometta Messina, killing eight people.
  • April 1978: Two trains collide near a ravine next to Murazze Vado. Some of the carriages fell into the gorge, killing 42.

-BBC

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