Danger Ahead! - Historic Railway Disasters Germany - Death toll estimated at 120 in ICE train crash
Historic Railway Disasters
3 June 1998

The Eschede Reports

Germany - Death toll estimated at 120 in ICE train crash

Shortly after 11.00am 3 June 1998, a German high-speed train, became derailed and struck a road overbridge just outside of the small town of Eschede. The Inter City Express (ICE) was travelling at 200km/h (120mph). The front, power-car passed under the bridge safely, but the following carriages struck the bridge bringing it down on top of them. The remaining carriages then crashed, concertina fashion into the wreckage. The death toll has risen remorselessly as the rescue operation has continued through the night. It is now believed that 120 people died.

The train involved was ICE884 Munich - Hamburg. It had departed at 0547 and was due to arrive at Hamburg-Altona station at 1206. The train consisted of 13 vehicles and could accommodate more than 700 pasengers. Although the exact number being carried is unknown, estimates suggest that more than 400 passengers were in the train.

A car was found under the wreckage and early reports suggested that this had fallen from the bridge and that the train had crashed into it. This is now being discounted as it is believed that the car fell from the bridge when it was struck by the train. Passengers have described the carriages riding very roughly several minutes before the accident. The first that the driver knew of the accident was feeling a tug on his locomotive after it had passed the bridge. It seems that the front power car had become decoupled from the rest of the train. The driver reports that he only realised the extent of the accident when he looked back to see the devastation. It is reported that work was being carried out on the line at the point where the train became divided. Although this has not been confirmed, there is a suggetion that there may have been a fault with the track and that it was this that caused the train to divide.

Graphical reprsentation of the accident
from the Electronic Telegraph

Freak Accident?
Although the cause of the accident is at present uncertain, experts believe that the devastation would have been considerably less if it had not been for the presence of the bridge. The modern, high-speed ICE trains have an excellent safety record and the carriages are designed to provide considerable protection to their occupants in the event of a crash. Experts believe that the train struck the central support of the bridge which brought it down on top of the train. Had the bridge been of a more modern single-span design, the severity of the accident would have been less. Indeed, it is very likely that the train could have continued with all its carriages upright and in-line until it came to rest.

Latest from Eschede



BBC Report

The ICE Crash
High Speed Trains by Oliver Keating)

Report from CNN (with pictures)

Press Release (German Language)

Press Release (English Translation Babelfish)
Accidents involving high-speed trains
Southall, West London
Great Western Trains IC125 hit a freight train that was crossing its path
Piacenza, Italy
A Pendolino tilting train derailed whilst taking a curve at excessive speed
French TGV Accidents
Summaries of all TGV accidents since their introduction into service
Related items
Hanau, 1993
Another incident involving an ICE

Genthin, 1939
Germany's worst-ever rail accident


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