A building site worker has died and 19 passengers were taken to hospital after a train collided with a construction crane on the rail line near The Hague.
The NS Intercity train derailed in the crash in the village of Voorschoten which happened at around 3.30am on Tuesday, minutes after a passing goods train hit the crane. Two of the four carriages careered down an embankment and landed in a field, while a third was left teetering over the embankment.
The regional safety board for Hollands-Midden said around 50 people were on board the train, which was travelling from the Leiden direction, and confirmed one of the victims had died in the collision at around 3.30am on Tuesday.
Construction company BAM said one of its employees had died as a result of the crash. BAM was carrying out scheduled maintenance work on rail lines running parallel to the line on which the trains were travelling.
At least one of the carriages caught fire and a section of overhead cable came down and landed on top of the train. Firefighters had to make the cabling safe before people on board could be rescued. Some passengers climbed through windows to escape.
An emergency hospital was set up in Utrecht to treat 19 victims, while around 20 more received treatment at the scene. Two people who were seriously injured have been transferred to the LUMC hospital in Leiden, a spokeswoman for the hospital said.
All but five victims had been discharged by mid-afternoon.
The driver of the passenger train sustained multiple fractures and is recovering in hospital, NS director Wouter Koolmees confirmed at a press conference.
The driver of the goods train was examined at the scene before being allowed to go home, operator DB Cargo said.
Leiden’s central station was closed on Tuesday morning amid concern about overcrowding. Voorschoten station was also closed.
One of the passengers, 20-year-old Anwar Akrouh, told NOS: ‘It was like a film. The lights went out, it went dark, people were trying to get out of the train. I saw three people injured, somebody screamed, it was the driver.
‘I helped someone who was in a lot of pain. We called 112 and the emergency services arrived within 10 minutes. It was incredibly intense.’
Two witnesses who live next to the rail line said the goods train hit the crane first, followed shortly afterwards by the passenger train.
‘It was a huge bang. We heard metal tearing,’ said one of the witnesses, named as Dennis. ‘It left the platform in pieces and we think the passenger train must have grazed the platform and then hit the crane.’
The mayor of Voorschoten, Nadine Stemerdinck, said: ‘This is an incredibly tragic accident. My heart goes out to the victims. Sadly one fatality has been confirmed. My thoughts go out to all friends and relatives of those involved in this incident.’
NS and track operator ProRail said specialist teams were inspecting the scene and no trains would run to or from Leiden until at least 4pm. Replacement transport has been arranged.
The safety council will lead the investigation into the crash. Police said they would also assess if there was any basis for bringing criminal charges and report their findings to the prosecution service.
The director of NS, Wouter Koolmees, said the incident would be investigated thoroughly. ‘Like everybody else I have a lot of questions and we want to know exactly what happened,’ he said.
Koolmees also thanked local residents who sheltered victims of the crash in the immediate aftermath.
ProRail CEO John Foppen said the crane was being used on two rail lines that were closed for scheduled maintenance work, parallel to the lines the trains were travelling on.
The investigation will focus on how the crane came to be on an active line, Foppen said. ‘I’ve worked on the rails for 17 years and never seen anything like this.’
The king and queen issued a statement of condolence through the royal house. ‘Our thoughts are with the victims of the train crash at Voorschoten and their families. Many of them are in a state of anxiety and uncertainty,’ they said.
“Met onze gedachten zijn wij bij de slachtoffers van het treinongeluk bij Voorschoten en hun familie. Velen verkeren nu in angst en onzekerheid. Wij leven intens met hen allen mee.” – Koning Willem-Alexander en Koningin Máxima pic.twitter.com/TeTAbaFxRL
— Koninklijk Huis (@koninklijkhuis) April 4, 2023
Prime minister Mark Rutte responded to the news on Twitter. ‘A dreadful train crash at Voorschoten where sadly one person has died and many people have been injured,’ he wrote. ‘My thoughts are with relatives and all the victims. I wish them every strength.’
Een vreselijk treinongeluk bij Voorschoten, waar helaas een dode te betreuren is en veel mensen gewond zijn geraakt. Mijn gedachten zijn bij de nabestaanden en bij alle slachtoffers. Ik wens hen alle sterkte.
— Mark Rutte (@MinPres) April 4, 2023
Four years ago an NS train collided with a crane on the track outside Prinsenbeek station, on the high-speed line near Breda. Nobody was injured, but all 250 passengers had to be transferred to another train to Rotterdam.
Thank you for donating to DutchNews.nl.
We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.Make a donation