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High-Speed Train Goes Off Rails In Italy Eight Die, Dozens Hospitalized; Speed, Obstacle May Be Factors

Mon., Jan. 13, 1997

An express train rounding a curve in northern Italy shot off the tracks Sunday, killing eight people and injuring at least 29.

The train was half an hour into its trip from Milan to Rome when it left the tracks about 200 yards before a station in Piacenza, police said. The train wasn’t scheduled to stop at the station.

The first passenger car - where a number of the fatalities were - plowed into an electrical pylon, said a spokesman for the state railway, Federico Manzella.

Former President Francesco Cossiga was aboard the train but not injured. Police said 29 people were hospitalized.

Authorities investigating the accident speculated it could have been caused by an obstacle on the track or excessive speed.

Manzella said investigators had found a box containing technical data, including the train’s speed. The normal rate for the curve is about 70 mph, he said.

“It seemed like the train was skiing, like in a slalom between poles,” the ANSA news agency quoted passenger Omar Bayram, 41, a Turkish businessman. “All of a sudden I found myself with the world upside down.”

Among the dead were two train engineers, three train police officers, a restaurant car worker and two passengers, the ANSA news agency said. Nicknamed the “Botticelli,” the train was one of Italy’s most modern, reaching speeds of 156 mph on the Milan-Rome run. It makes the 375-mile trip in four hours and 25 minutes, stopping in Bologna and Florence.

Officials said the number of victims could have been much higher - the train only had about 150 passengers, out of a capacity of 900.

It was the second train accident in Italy in two weeks. Two commuter trains collided Dec. 30 near northern Brescia, killing two and injuring 17.

The country’s worst train accident was in 1989, when two local trains collided in Crotone, in southern Italy, killing 12.


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