Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Death Toll from Polish Rail Collision Rises

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Death Toll from Polish Rail Collision Rises

Article excerpt

The crash occurred as the transportation system is expected to come under pressure when Poland co-hosts the European soccer championship this summer.

The death toll in the devastating collision of two passenger trains at high speed in Poland rose to 16 on Sunday, leaving the authorities asking how the trains ended up on the same track.

Prosecutors said that they had opened an investigation, but it was not immediately clear what had been the cause of the accident. They said they had not ruled out human error. The stretch of track where the incident took place was modernized last year, according to Transportation Minister Slawomir Nowak.

"We need to wait for a detailed report of an independent commission," Mr. Nowak said at the scene, "then we will need to calmly take a stand."

The crash outside the town of Szczekociny, north of Krakow, was the worst such accident in Poland in more than 20 years. The trains were carrying around 350 people when the accident occurred, shortly after 9 p.m. Saturday. In addition to the fatalities, 58 passengers were injured, many seriously, the authorities said.

An American woman was among those killed, said Benjamin Ousley Naseman, a spokesman for the U.S. Consulate in Krakow. Her family had been notified but the woman's name had not been released pending the publication of an official list of those killed that the Polish authorities were putting together.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk rushed to the scene of what he called "the most dramatic train catastrophe in our history for many, many years." Survivors described a powerful collision, followed by darkness filled with the screams of the frightened and the wounded.

Many of Poland's trains are older models, noticeably less advanced than the high-speed trains in neighboring Germany. Tracks and stations all over the country are undergoing upgrades in preparation for the European soccer championship, which Poland and Ukraine are co-hosting this summer. …

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