A passenger train slammed into a construction crane and derailed near The Hague in the early hours of Tuesday, sending two carriages into a field next to the tracks. One person died and 19 were hospitalized, Dutch emergency services said. Police opened an investigation to establish if any crime was committed. Another independent probe was opened into the cause of the crash.
Television images showed people using temporary bridges and ladders to cross a narrow drainage canal running alongside the rails to reach the stricken train in the darkness. Many windows in the train carriages were broken. It was not clear if that happened during the accident or as passengers attempted to escape.
Two of the bright yellow and blue train carriages came to rest perpendicular to the tracks across the small canal and partially in a field. What appeared to be the front of the train was badly damaged. Other parts of the train were partially derailed.
Video footage from inside the train in the immediate aftermath of the crash showed chaotic scenes as passengers tried to get out of the wreckage in darkness.
Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima also expressed their sympathy in a tweet, and Willem-Alexander visited the site late Tuesday morning.
The four-carriage passenger train was carrying about 50 passengers at the time of the crash.
John Voppen, CEO of the rail network company Pro Rail, said that the passenger train and a freight train both hit a crane that was being used to carry out maintenance work. He said the crane was on tracks that were not being used by train traffic and it is not clear how the trains collided with the crane.
“We don’t understand how this could have happened,” he told reporters at a news conference.
The identity of the person killed in the accident was not immediately released. But Dutch media reported that the person was part of a maintenance team from construction company BAM working on the railway. The company did not immediately return a call seeking confirmation.
The maintenance team had been at work on the rails between the cities of Leiden and The Hague when the crash happened around 3:25 a.m. (0125 GMT) in the town of Voorschoten.
Railway company NS also said in a statement that a passenger train, a freight train and a construction crane were involved in a collision, but the company gave no further details.
“Like everyone else, I’m full of questions and we want to know exactly what happened,” NS CEO Wouter Koolmees said in a statement. “A thorough investigation must be carried out. At the moment, all attention is focused on the wellbeing of our travelers and colleagues.”
The regional coordinator of emergency services said that 11 of the injured passengers were treated in homes near the line and 19 were transported in a fleet of ambulances to five hospitals, including a “calamity hospital” opened in the central city of Utrecht.
“A terrible train accident near Voorschoten, where unfortunately one person died and many people were injured. My thoughts are with the relatives and with all the victims. I wish them all the best,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a tweet.
Ingrid de Roos, a spokeswoman for local fire services, told news show WNL that a small fire broke out at the rear of the train but was quickly extinguished.
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