Friday, August 8, 2008

Life happens . . . no matter what you do

I was saddened to read of a freak rail tragedy in the Czech Republic today.

An express train crashed today into a Czech road bridge that collapsed during construction seconds before the train's passage, killing seven people and injuring dozens, rescue services said.

The freak nature of the accident was underlined when rail investigators later revealed the train had been running 10 minutes late as it approached the metal bridge near Studenka in the north-west of the country.

The locomotive and six passenger carriages came off the tracks and were left a mass of twisted metal. Emergency services arrived at the scene to find the dead and injured, and bags and train seats scattered everywhere.

Rescue services spokesman Lukas Himpl said 67 people had been treated for injuries, of whom 13 were very badly hurt. A Polish man and five Czech women were killed in the crash and a seventh person died later in hospital.

"It's horrible. It's a disaster," said police spokeswoman Miroslava Michalkova-Salkova.

Fire brigade spokesman Zdenek Nytra said rescuers had pulled all surviving victims from the wreckage.

The train was travelling at about 135 km/h as it approached the bridge, said Jan Kucera, a deputy director-general of Czech railways.

The train was unable to stop in time, according to first accounts.

"The driver saw that the bridge was moving and was starting to fall," Kucera told reporters.

"He immediately slammed on the emergency brakes and hid in the engine compartment of the locomotive. Six seconds later there was the shock -- and it was still going at 120kmh.

"There's a lot of damage."

Teams of rescuers set about cutting victims free from the wreckage. The injured were taken to 10 hospitals across the region by helicopter and in ambulances.

. . .

There were about 400 people on the train, including a large group of Czech, Polish and Slovakian youths making for a rock concert by British heavy metal band Iron Maiden at a Prague football stadium tonight.

"Our carriage was full of young people and we were having fun, then there was the crash, chaos. People were dying, they had no legs and arms. I am alive, I have been born again," one woman passenger told the CTK news agency.

The driver, who survived, told reporters: "There was nothing I could do."

"I will never get on a train again," he added, refusing to give his name.

What can one say? A bridge collapses without warning. A train is just late enough to intercept the falling wreckage seconds later. There's no way on God's earth this could have been predicted or avoided.

Life happens, friends. Live each day as if it were your last, and be grateful for it. You never know . . .


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