Italy Train Collision That Killed 27 Caused By Multiple Failures Including Human Error — Why Did Two Locomotives Crash Head-On?

Two trains that collided in rural Italy have caused the death of 27 people so far. The head-on collision between the two high-speed locomotives has been puzzling, but prosecutors feel human error might be the cause.

Two trains traveling in opposite directions in Apulia collided head-on near the coastal towns of Bari and Barletta at around 11:30 a.m., local time. Each of the trains was being driven by a single engine and had four rakes. Two of the four rakes on each train, as well as the engines, were completely destroyed in the high-speed collision. Both the trains were in motion and traveling between 62 to 68 miles per hour (100 to 110 kilometers per hour).

While the preliminary investigation points out multiple failures that resulted in the accident that has so far claimed 27 lives, Francesco Giannella, the local prosecutor, claims the accident happened due to human error, reported CNN.

Giannella claims at least one person is being questioned in connection with the train crash. However, local Italian news agency ANSA categorically noted that every possible angle is being considered, and technical failures have certainly not been ruled out.

What might have caused the head-on collision of two trains? Besides the human error angle, another cause currently being investigated is the incorrect signaling to one of the locomotives that allowed one of them to jump on the single track and head straight towards the other one traveling in the opposite direction. Experts indicate one of the trains was hastily given a green signal owing to some minutes of delay. They speculate it was the train traveling north that shouldn’t have been put on the track and was supposed to be held back, but since it got a green signal, it chugged ahead.

Such errors simply can’t happen when the signaling systems are automated. Unfortunately, this portion of the track wasn’t governed by automated signals or alert systems, reported BBC News. Despite being a single track, the section remains manually operated. In other words, the all the trains, traveling in either direction, need verbal approval.

Just like in the golden age of steam-run locomotives, trains that ply on this track have to call up the controller or station master to ensure the track ahead is clear, and only then can they move ahead. The single stretch of track is owned and operated by a private rail company named Ferrotramviaria. According to locals, the track was supposed to be upgraded, but work has been extensively delayed.

Accordingly, it is quite likely that both the trains received the green signal, and before the error was detected or remedied, they collided. According to officials, one of the trains had left the town of Andria, while the other was coming from Corato in Apulia. The impact of the head-on collision was quite intense. Aerial photos of the crash show debris from the trains scattered over a large area, with the destroyed boogies being completely unidentifiable.

About 10 people died instantly in the crash. The death toll, however, has continued to climb. According to the Inquisitr, a fire brigade commander who is involved in the rescue operations confirmed that there are many dead. He added that a child who survived the crash was airlifted to a nearby hospital. Rescuers are still sifting through the wreckage and recovering bodies.

After hearing the news about the collision, the prime minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi, who was in Milan, canceled his itinerary and returned to Rome, reported the New York Times.

An official statement soon followed that read, “I want to express my condolences to the families and I have ordered, with no holding-back, [an inquiry] to find who is responsible. I think we must have absolute clarity on this. We will not stop until we understand what happened.”

Considering the intensity of the crash, authorities have erected a field hospital, which is being run by emergency personnel. While the exact count is hard to come by, dozens of travelers have been admitted with multiple injuries.

[Photo by Luke Sharrett/Getty Images]