Buenos Aires train crash: An “unknown” cause?

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    Injured passengers from a commuter train wait to be carried away after a collision in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday Feb. 22, 2012. A packed train slammed into the end of the line in Buenos Aires’ busy Once station Wednesday, killing dozens and injuring hundreds, according to police. (AP Photo/Leonardo Zavattaro,Telam)

    The neighborhood of Once is one of the most populous and commercial in Buenos Aires. Hundreds of thousands of people use the subway and the train to get to their jobs. This Wednesday, February 22, was the first working day after a long weekend. At 8.33 in the morning, a train entered Once Central Station at half speed, slowing down as it should, the checkpoints attested, but something happened in the last 40 meters before coming to a full stop.

    For unknown reasons the train didn’t stop and it collided with the bumper that marks the end of the tracks on platform 2. Speed barely exceeded 26 Km per hour, but the first two cars were full of people who wanted to get off as quickly as possible to get to work on time. The inertia of the crash and the inappropriate weight and excess of passengers in each car caused the tragedy.

    A dreadful shocking tragedy

    The clash caused the second car to embed itself 7 meters into the first car. It is estimated that at that time there were nearly 2,000 people in these two cars. The fatalities are: 50 deaths and 703 injured at the moment. 12 people are missing. Among the 703 wounded, about 150 are in critical condition.

    The Secretary of Transportation of the Nation, Juan Pablo Schiavi, said it is “unknown” how the event happened and that the formation entered the station at a “normal speed”, as measured by the GPS at 26 km/h.

    Is TBA guilty?

    The company that regulates the train system, TBA, is the focus of all investigations. Asked whether the accident could have been due to human error, the TAB CEO said that “it’s a possibility,” he also claimed that since that the Company is in charge of running the Sarmiento line (involved in this tragedy) “there has been much investment in the renewal of trains.” However, the public did not believe him and Roque Cirigliano has had to be guarded by troops of the Federal Police as he entered an office while passengers insulted and accused him of being a “murderer.”

    Judge Claudio Bonadio ordered yesterday searches in various offices of the TBA Company, that is the concessionaire of the former Sarmiento line, aiming to confiscate all the documentation about the protocols of maintenance for the trains set by the company.

    This judge also ordered an alcoholism test on the train driver, Antonio Córdoba, who is still in the hospital.

    The saddest disaster

    It is not fresh news that the public transportation service in Buenos Aires is an unmitigated disaster. The trains have cars than have been in service for over 30 years, they are out-of-date, have no air conditioning and serious mechanical flaws.

    This unit, in particular, had come out of its technical inspection a few days before the accident. It had the technical go-ahead; however there are almost 1,000 people who were victims of a disaster of massive dimensions.

    The Government has declared two days of mourning.

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