Shortly after 12 p.m. on Friday, the regional train RB59458 left Garmisch-Partenkirchen, according to the timetable it was supposed to arrive at Munich Central Station at 1:26 p.m., but it never got there. A few minutes after departure, the train with double-decker carriages turned into a long curve – and derailed. Three of the five wagons slipped off the tracks, which are elevated on a railway embankment. A car hung diagonally over the embankment. The other two wagons fell down, one lay on its side and the other on its roof.
What is known about the victims?
The passengers struggled out of the cars, but not all made it. At least five people lost their lives in the train accident. One person died on the way to the hospital, it is a woman, Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) told Bayerischer Rundfunk on Friday evening. Three other dead women were found lying under the train and were recovered Friday night. The identification of the fatalities has now been completed, as the police announced on Sunday morning. It is said to be three women aged 32, 39 and 70 and, according to current knowledge, a 51-year-old.
A fifth victim was found during the salvage work on Saturday afternoon, as the local police confirmed. He is said to be a teenager aged 14. On Tuesday morning, the police announced that a woman was still in critical condition.
Two of those killed are said to be women from Ukraine who had fled to Germany with their children. Martin Dubberke, pastor of the Protestant parish of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, told the epd news agency that it was difficult to endure: “The women escape the war in Ukraine and die on a train here.” The ecumenical prayer service in the village on Whit Monday should therefore be held in German and Ukrainian. In addition, an ecumenical memorial service is also planned for June 11 in the parish church in Partenkirchen, to which Archbishop Reinhard Marx and the Protestant regional bishop Christian Kopp are also expected.
How many people were injured?
15 people were seriously injured in the train accident and had to be taken to a hospital. Many other passengers suffered minor injuries. The police spoke of a total of 44 injuries on Saturday afternoon.
Around 140 passengers were on the train when the accident happened, including many schoolchildren, since classes had ended shortly before and the Whitsun holidays had begun.
Are there still people missing?
The police clarified the last open missing persons cases on Sunday. We now know where all the people who have been reported missing since Friday afternoon are where they are. As of Saturday afternoon, seven people were still missing.
What is the cause of the accident?
On Tuesday morning, the Munich II public prosecutor’s office announced that it had initiated investigations against three people on suspicion of negligent homicide. The accused are employees of Deutsche Bahn. The authorities did not initially disclose details of their role in the accident. According to an eyewitness, the train suddenly overturned. On the day of the accident, those involved initially assumed that damage to the track was the cause. According to a report by World Deutsche Bahn is planning renovation work on the tracks on the accident route.
Bavaria’s Transport Minister Christian Bernreiter said at the scene of the accident on Friday: “We will investigate exactly what caused the train accident.” According to Bernreiter, one thing is certain: “There was no second train or other vehicle involved.” The railway line is single track at the accident site.
A Soko “train” has been working since Friday to reconstruct the course of events. The Munich II Public Prosecutor’s Office is in charge. The investigators are supported by experts.
Where did the accident happen?
The accident site is only a few kilometers from the Upper Bavarian holiday resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the district of Burgrain, in the idyllic Loisachauen. The next stop for the train would have been Farchant, which is less than two kilometers away.
The accident happened in a long left-hand bend just before the train crossed the Loisach. The tracks are elevated on a railway embankment, the federal highway 2 runs right next to the tracks.
The area is a popular excursion and holiday destination. The ruins of Werdenfels Castle are located on a rock above Burgrain and are an attractive hiking destination because of the impressive view of the Wetterstein Mountains from there.
How did the rescue operation go?
Around 650 helpers were at the scene of the accident on Friday, according to Transport Minister Bernreiter. They came from all over southern Germany. Twelve rescue helicopters circled the area. Fire brigade, emergency doctors and police pulled passengers out through the windows, in just 45 minutes everyone was rescued from the train, said district administrator Anton Speer (free voters).
In addition, 15 mountain infantry from the barracks in Mittenwald were deployed, who happened to be on the train that was involved in the accident. Your participation was very helpful, said Bavaria’s Interior Minister Herrmann on Friday in Burgrain. Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) also came to the scene of the accident on Friday. “I am deeply shaken. It is a terrible catastrophe,” she said. On Saturday, Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU), Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) and Bahn boss Richard Lutz also got an idea of the situation.
How is the situation on site?
The salvage work was initially difficult, heavy rain temporarily disabled the helpers on Friday evening. Two attempts to lift the wagons failed. On Saturday afternoon, cranes managed to recover at least one wagon and lift it onto the neighboring federal highway 2. The fifth victim was found.
The clean-up work dragged on over the entire Pentecost weekend. A special crane weighing 250 tons had to heave the locomotive back onto the track, among other things. The last overturned wagon was recovered by cranes on Monday and dismantled for transport. On Monday evening, only the locomotive and at least one wagon were left on the embankment. The street cranes were gone, the Technical Relief Agency had moved away, road sweepers were cleaning the federal highway.
The railway line between Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Oberau cannot be used until further notice. It will probably take until at least the middle of the week before the tracks are released again. In addition, federal highway 2, which is very busy and runs right next to the tracks, is closed. A diversion is signposted. The A95 motorway, which many holidaymakers use on their way to Italy, has been open to traffic in both directions since Monday morning. Traffic from the Augsburg region is diverted from the federal highway 17 to Füssen in the direction of Fernpass, vehicles from Mittenwald/Innsbruck are directed towards federal highway 11 at Krün.
Has there ever been a similar accident?
The horror of the fatal accident is great. There have been several serious train accidents in Bavaria in recent years. It was not until mid-February of this year that two S7 S-Bahn trains collided head-on on a single-track route in Schäftlarn-Ebenhausen near Munich. A 24-year-old died in the accident and 18 people were injured. One of the two train drivers had apparently disregarded a red signal, and investigations into the cause are ongoing.
Four years ago, a regional train hit a stationary freight train in Aichach on the route between Ingolstadt and Augsburg, killing two people. Six years ago, twelve people lost their lives in Bad Aibling, 89 were injured when two Meridian trains collided head-on on single-track line. The cause: A dispatcher was distracted because he was playing with his cell phone and then sent false signals.
The worst train accident in recent German history occurred in Eschede, Lower Saxony, when an ICE derailed and 102 people died. The tragedy happened on June 3, 1998 – exactly 24 years to the day before the Garmisch-Partenkirchen disaster.