Truck driver charged after misconduct at level crossing causes fatal traincrash

Photo: CTK

Three people died and others were left fighting for their lives after a train travelling at over 150 kilometres an hour crashed into a lorry at a level crossing in North Moravia on Wednesday. The truck had evidently entered the level crossing despite warning signals and its Polish driver has now been charged with reckless endangerment.

Photo: CTK
The small town of Studénka in the Moravian-Silesian Region was the scene of a rail disaster seven years ago when an express train hit a collapsed bridge, leaving eight people dead.

Just a few hundred metres from the site of the 2008 tragedy a second disaster occurred on Wednesday morning, when a high-speed Pendolino train ploughed into a truck at a level crossing.

The crash – which occurred when the train was travelling at 160 kilometres an hour – caused the deaths of three people. Two others are fighting for their lives in hospital, including the train driver. Over a dozen others were also injured.

It appears the tragedy need never have occurred. Cameras have reportedly shown that the Polish driver of the truck followed two cars that crossed the level crossing, located 500 metres from the train station in Studénka, despite warning lights and signals indicating the approach of a train.

Photo: CTK
The crossing’s boom barriers were already coming down when the truck entered the level crossing and closed entirely when it was between them.

The driver moved the vehicle forward slightly, possibly saving his own life. However, he did not clear the railway line and break through the light barrier, which is the correct procedure in such a situation.

Regional police chief Radim Wita described what happened at a news conference on Thursday morning.

“At the moment he reached the level crossing its red warning lights were flashing. But despite this he entered the level crossing. And when he was closed in by the boom barriers he remained on the level crossing for several seconds.”

Reacting to the incident the minister of the interior, Milan Chovanec, said it was clearly caused by human error on the part of the driver. Human stupidity knows no limits, he said.

The lorry’s cabin sustained surprisingly little damage. But its trailer was smashed to pieces and its cargo of sheet metal, which was reportedly being delivered to Studénka, scattered over some distance.

Photo: CTK
The fifty-year-old driver, named Slawek according to a sign at the bottom of the truck’s windscreen, has been charged with reckless endangerment and could face up to 10 years in prison. The police have requested that the Pole be remanded in custody.

Police chief Wita said that the driver had not expressed remorse over the incident. However, he refuted earlier reports that the man had attempted to flee the scene prior to his detention.