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Persons trapped: An regional and an Intercity train collided

Category: International Firefighting Team of the Year

Fire department: Volunteer Fire Department Kritzendorf (Kritzendorf, Austria)

Operation: Train accident

December 22, 2017: Shortly before 6:00 pm, the alarm "T3 railway accident at the station square" was received, which made members of three fire departments shudder. A regional and an Intercity train had laterally collided. The Intercity train had derailed and overturned. A large array of rescue forces converged on the scene to free people trapped in the trains. 

In accordance with the alarm plan, the Kritzendorf, Klosterneuburg and Höflein FDs rushed to the accident. The commander of the local FD, OBI Mag. Peter Dussmann, almost didn’t believe his eyes when he reached the site. “A similar train accident occurred at almost the same place nearly nine years ago. I had never imagined that such an event could ever repeat itself. Due to the impact, three wagons had jumped the tracks and overturned. The train tracks were covered with debris. There was an eerie silence.”

First, the head of operations obtained a general overview of the situation and determined that the overhead power lines had not been damaged. During this, the Klosterneuburg and Höflein FDs as well as the Red Cross had reached the scene. Multiple fire protection barriers were set up and the accident illuminated with floodlights. “I expected the worst.” In the first phase, it was not clear how many persons were trapped in the train. Only a wagon door on the front of the train came into question as a possibility for gaining access. But because it had been deformed by the collision, it had to be opened with a crushing tool.

A rescue team penetrated the overturned wagons and was immediately met by some travelers, who gave an overview of where injured people were located. “I expected the worst when I climbed into the train. Despite the numerous injured persons, the rescue was able to be carried out in a completely calm and orderly manner. There was neither panic nor confusion,” said LM Bernhard Rieglhofer about the rescue. After the railway operations head confirmed that the overhead power line had been shut off, the windows of the wagons were entered with ladders to create access. The four severely injured and eight lightly injured persons were first treated in the train by the fire department and Red Cross and subsequently removed from the wagons on spine boards and basket stretchers. Fortunately, most of the passengers could leave the wagons independently. After only 40 minutes, the rescue action was completed and all occupants freed. The Red Cross set up a triage area immediately adjacent to the train tracks, where the injured could continue to be cared for. The police cordoned off the scene of the accident to keep away onlookers and hold the site free. Because the news had spread rapidly via social media, not only journalist questions had to be handled, but on-site camera teams and press photographers as well.