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St. Petersburg Times on Moscow Train Crash:
"Experts are divided as to the cause of the accident. Some of them believe that the driver may have fallen asleep, while others suggest that the Millennium Bug may have played a role."
Train Crash Kills Driver, Injures Another 15 By Vladimir Kovalyov
A train on the St. Petersburg-Moscow railway link crashed into the back of a freight train on Wednesday morning, killing one of the drivers and injuring 15 passengers who were traveling from Veliky Luki to St. Petersburg. Two people, including the train's driver, were admitted to the intensive care unit of a local hospital with serious injuries. Five others were taken to hospital with less serious injuries, while a further fifteen received medical attention at the scene.
According to Itar-Tass, most of the injured were aged who suffered broken legs and ribs during the collision. The report said many didn't want to go to the hospital, but relented when doctors insisted. On Thursday, the crash claimed another life. A local man was crushed to death by a special repair train while walking along the railway near the crash scene.
According to Oktyabarskaya railway officials, the passenger train crashed into the rear of the other train at 2:50 a.m., between the stations Mfdinsky Most and Verebye, 193 kilometers from St. Petersburg. The engine and two coaches of the passenger train were derailed and turned over in the collision.
Five cars of the freight train, which was carrying lumber, were also derailed.
The crash also caused severe damage to 150 meters of track and part of a fiber optic cable belonging to Roskom, a St. Petersburg communications company. As a result, several St. Petersburg companies, banks and the stock exchange were left without any connection to Moscow. Passenger trains from Moscow were also delayed by eight hours.
After the damaged stretch of track was repaired, trains were again able to pass through, but were required to reduce speed to 25 kph.
Railway officials say that emergency teams took an hour to arrive at the scene, one of whom told Petersburg Television that this was due to heavy forest and the absence of roads nearby.
An official at the Oktyabarskaya Railway said, on condition of anonymity, that if the crash had happened closer to the Mfdinsky Bridge, the consequences would have been hard to imagine.
"There is no embankment on the section of track where the accident happened, but further down there is a very high embankment above the river," the official said. "If the train had been derailed there, there would have been many more casualties." According to NTV, there was a nightmare quality to the scene at the crash site. People from the two overturned coaches, fearing that the freight train might explode, ran into the forest to hide. The temperature at the time of the crash was minus 38 degrees, and one of the passengers was treated for frost bite.
Later, those who had run off returned to find shelter in the four unharmed coaches of the train, which were safe and heated.
Experts are divided as to the cause of the accident. Some of them believe that the driver may have fallen asleep, while others suggest that the Millennium Bug may have played a role.
Railway officials dismissed the sleeping driver scenario, maintaining that this is impossible because of a special telemetric system monitoring whether the driver is awake, which is installed in all trains on the Moscow-St. Petersburg line.
Trains on this section of track run at an average of 150 kph, but this particular train was traveling at 85 kph at the time of the crash.
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-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), January 31, 2000