Black box found for Belgian train in fatal crash; service remains snarled
BRUSSELS - Search teams yesterday found one black box from the two trains that slammed into each other near Brussels, a find that could help reveal the cause of the tragedy that killed 18 people and injured 171.
One train driver survived the crash with serious injuries but he was not healthy enough yet to be questioned, railway officials said.
The Eurostar and Thalys high speed trains from London and Paris to Brussels said they were suspending services for a third day today and other train drivers held a wildcat strike yesterday that left thousands of commuters without their normal transport.
Rescue workers picked through the wreckage of the two commuter trains that collided Monday in one of the deadliest rail accidents in Belgian history. After a better count, provincial officials raised the number of injured to 171 people, some seriously hurt, up from 95.
European Commission officials said the rail track near the Buizingen station where the crash took place, 9 miles south of Brussels, lacked the latest automatic braking system designed to stop trains after they pass through a red signal.
Lodewijk De Witte, the governor of the province of Flemish Brabant, had said earlier that one train apparently did not heed a red signal as the second train - leaving 10 minutes late from Buizingen - moved onto the track of the oncoming train.
National Railways spokesman Jochen Goovaerts described the wreck as a lateral collision, contradicting initial reports that the trains smashed head-on. One train apparently was diverting to another track when it was hit by the second.
The search continued for the second data recorder that could help determine whether mechanical failure, human error, freezing weather or another factor was primarily responsible for the crash. They also should reveal how fast the trains were moving when they collided, said Goovaerts.
“There are a lot of possible explanations to this tragedy,’’ he said. “We don’t want to put the blame where it doesn’t belong.’’
The accident scene was sealed off yesterday with police tape.
One passenger car from each train was tipped onto its side, and it was unknown whether more bodies were trapped underneath.
Goovaerts said the surviving driver was on train that was approaching the station.
Infrabel, the rail management company, said its technical teams would need three days to inspect six rail lines once the wreckage is removed, meaning train traffic was likely to remain disrupted in the capital for the rest of the week.