Police: ‘catalogue of negligence and failure’ led to 2008 Studénka rail crash

Photo: www.hzsmsk.cz

A special commission investigating the causes of the 2008 Studénka rail crash has delivered its long-awaited report, with police investigators speaking of a ‘catalogue of negligence and failure’. Eight people died and 91 were injured when an international express train from Poland slammed into a motorway bridge that had collapsed onto the tracks just seconds earlier.

Photo: www.hzsmsk.cz
The Studénka rail crash happened almost two years ago, on August 8th, 2008. An international express train en route from the Polish city of Krakov to Prague collided with a collapsed motorway bridge near the town of Studénka, north Moravia, at about 9.30 in the morning.

The train was travelling at around 130 kilometres per hour when the driver noticed a motorway bridge starting to buckle and sway about half a kilometre down the line in front of him – he slammed on the emergency brake, but the train was still travelling at 90 km/h when it collided with the collapsed bridge, which was being renovated by construction workers.

Six people – Poles and Czechs - were killed immediately, two more people died later in hospital. Some 91 were injured, making it the Czech Republic's worst train accident for more than a decade.

On Thursday a team of police investigators made public the findings of their 9,000-page report, with the head of the investigation, Jiří Jícha, speaking of ‘an incomprehensible catalogue of negligence and failures’ on the part of the construction firm and their sub-contractors who were manoeuvring the bridge above the tracks.

Photo: www.hzsmsk.cz
They said the bridge had not been anchored properly during renovation work. It was propped up on uneven wooden supports, something investigators described as an improvised solution. The metal props themselves, meanwhile, were almost twice the proper height, making them extremely unstable. And at no point was the bridge anchored to anything that wasn’t itself mobile, clearly making the massive steel structure unstable. If the repair work had been overseen properly by structural engineers the accident would never have happened, investigators said.

The police exonerated the conduct of Czech Railways and in particular the train’s driver, whose prompt actions saved his life and most likely the lives of many passengers. He survived the crash by running back into his cab and sheltering behind the train’s engine seconds before the impact.

Police say 10 people – supervisors and workers from the construction firms involved - will be charged with endangering public safety, and could face up to five years in prison. The charges will be filed within one month.