Mega Disasters Paris Train Crash

a central Paris railway station at the height of rush hour thousands of passengers head home suddenly a runaway train hurtles towards the station three hundred seven tons of crashing metal slams into a packed commuter train 56 people die in Paris's worst train crash now using advanced computer simulations we reveal exactly what led to disaster at the gargulio disasters don't just happen they're triggered by a chain of critical events unravel the clues and come down those final seconds from disaster Europe friends Paris June 27 1988 a summer evening in the French capital Paris is the focal point of the French rail network the French are proud of their rail system it's one of the biggest in Europe with 34,000 miles of track with state funding and an ongoing modernization program since the early 80s the system is high-tech and efficient 6:20 p.m. the 538 inbound commuter service from alone to Paris's guard de Leon station is running on time the 80-mile journey takes 75 minutes it's an 8 carriage trade and in the driver's seat is 42 year-old Daniel Solan he's worked for SNCF the French national railways since he was 15 Jean Bovie is the guard on the train he's another old hand who joined the SNCF straight out of school so far it's been a routine trip but at 6:36 p.m. five miles outside Paris the train passes through there demonstation and something unexpected happens a young woman in the second carriage leaps up and pulls the emergency cord pabellón solans cab alerts him that someone has pulled the cord and the brakes are automatically activated the woman slips from the Train and disappears before the train can get moving again Solon needs to reset the alarm and rearm the brakes it's an all-too-familiar procedure it should only take a few minutes but Solon still radios the control room to alert them of the holdup 6:40 p.m. most of the passengers fearing a long delay leave the Train to find another way to complete their journey the remaining few resigned themselves to a late arrival in Paris salon and Bovie try to rearm the brake system so the Train can continue its journey to the guard the Lyon station ganda Lyon rail station serves the south and east of the country behind its magnificent nineteenth-century exterior lies one of Europe's most sophisticated rail labs it's one of France's busiest stations with a mixture of intercity service and commuter trains serving the suburbs the nerve center coordinating all train movements is the station's control drill duty manager tonight is Andre Toulon's he's in charge of safety and ensuring that the 360 trains going in and out of the station run smoothly always at the back of his mind is the threat of terrorism for the past seven years Arab militant groups have been targeting Paris they're protesting French troops in war-torn Lebanon and demanding the release of Arab prisoners many of the attacks have been on trains in and out of the city 6:45 p.m. hurrying towards guard dead Lyon station to catch a train home his commercial assistant Colette Huckle a she was late leaving the office and worried she'll miss the train Colette is a recently divorced single mother and she's anxious to get back to her son 13 year old Nicholas Gatto Beckles female caller when I'm working I automatically hurry back to take care of my son I fix him something to eat and helping him with his homework consider voila I'm just sure forty-year-old Dominique Pahlavi who works at the move art gallery also rushes to catch the same train like thousands of others she's still grappling with a summer timetable with new train times and altered routes it's a recipe for confusion and missed Ray's 702 the end so Len has fixed the brakes and the train is ready to depart again for Paris but it's taken him much longer than expected the Train is now 26 minutes behind schedule controller to Lance and struck Sol and to skip the next scheduled stop Maison al 4 and travel non-stop to guarded Lyon to make up time but so lands late train isn't to Lance's only headache 704 now there's a problem on one of the commuter trains due to leave guard the Lyon it's the train that Colette and Dominique are rushing to catch commuter trains have a driver and a guard driver Andre Tanguy is ready to go but the guard is running late without him the train can't leave it's good news for single mother Colette Puckle a she's relieved the Train hasn't left she even manages to secure her usual seat in the front carriage the delay means more people pile onto the train another late arrival is Dominique Pahlavi shook harlot rings it was hard because it was summers being underground it was hot and sticky you me the water all the passengers and the driver Tanguy can do is sit and wait for the guard to arrive there outbound train is on platform to the same platform that the late running inbound service from Milan is due to use but they don't need to worry signalers have pre-programmed a set of points to prevent Solon's train from going into platform to half a mile before it reaches the station the points will automatically switch sending the train into empty platform 1 instead 707 PN Solon's inbound train is now traveling at more than 60 miles per hour a yellow signal warns him to start slowing down just ahead is a steep grade leading into guard to Lyon station but when he applies the brakes there is hardly a response to his heart soul and realizes that his brakes aren't working he can slow his train down the 300 ton train is hurtling out of control and it's less than a mile and a half to the packed rush-hour station a runaway train with defective brakes races towards Paris's guard early on it's rush hour and the station is packed with commuters including those waiting on a delayed outbound train Daniel Seoul and the driver is getting desperate he knows there should be a handbrake somewhere on the train guarded jon bovi hurries to look for it we asked ourselves what was happening to us we tried the brakes but there was no response so I decided to go down the trained to look for hand brakes so then keeps trying to brakes it slows the train but not enough 707 and 30 seconds Solenn radios a desperate warning to the control room stop everything I've got no brakes stop everything I've got no brakes panicking so Lin hits the train's radio alarm signal it can't be heard by passengers who are still unaware of the danger but it activates a high-pitched audio alarm in the garden Lyon control room and the driver cabs of all the commuter trains within the vicinity immediately signal men turn every green light red drivers stop their trains wherever they are within seconds the entire network rhymes to a halt with the exception of one train unable to do more from his cab so LAN rushes the remaining passengers to the rear of the train at Garda Lyon the guard and the delayed outbound train has finally shown up but now driver Andre Tanguy signals which is to read he has no idea of what's going on and the high-pitched whistle on his radio means he can't use it to find out 7o hpn the runaway train hits the beginning of the steep four degree grade that leads into the station it picks up speed on the sharp descent driver stolen manages to get all the passengers into the last carriage they braced themselves for the inevitable impact there was panic a lot of panic train guard bovi is still desperately searching for a handbrake I asked myself what was going to happen to me was this going to be my last moment 7:08 p.m. and 15 seconds at guardedly on station andre Tanguy is still not sure why he is stuck on a red light in the second carriage passenger Dominique Pahlavi has had enough with a weight it was difficult to get off the train because there were so many people Dominique has to squeeze past other passengers to get to the exit 708 in 30 seconds signal operators see the runaway train rushing past them instead of being routed to empty platform 1 as planned it's heading straight for Tommy's packed commuter train the signal men immediately issue a warning over the station's public address system to evacuate the train so I thought y'all Andre Tanguy hears it he shocks over the trains intercom to evacuate passengers scramble to reach the doors 7:08 and 45 seconds tungee sings the runaway train heading straight for him but he knows his train must still be packed with people trying to get off instead of jumping he bravely stays on the intercom repeating his warning to passengers seconds later 307 tons of runaway train smash into the commuter train on platform 2 yamaneika Pahlavi leaves the train just in time she feels the impact of the massive collision just yards behind her there was a great black dust cloud a horrific cloud that was suspended around the Train I could hardly see anything but dust fell pretty quickly and it was then that I realized that one crane had run into another and the train that came down from the tunnel had split the first carriage of my train completely into on the runaway train all the passengers are in the rear car most escaped without serious injury when not back to commercial at the moment of impact I was walking into the last carriage I heard a great noise and felt a small shock I didn't even fall over I just grabbed a railing but those on Tanguy stationary train don't fare so well Tanguy doesn't stand a chance the impact kills him instantly single mother Colette perkele is in the front carriage which suffers the full impact of the crash at first I thought it could be a bomb I don't remember how long it lasted 10 seconds 20 seconds I have no idea I had just enough time to think oh I'm going to die papa help me just seconds ago Colette was looking forward to spending the evening with her young son now she lies trapped in the wreckage with dozens of other severely injured passengers if she doesn't receive medical attention soon she may not survive a runaway train crashes into a packed commuter train at Paris is gone to Lyon a photojournalist captures the full horror of the collision just seconds later a scene of total devastation confronts Jon bovi the guard on the runaway train that's Michael the trilogy module I still see images a kind of burning smell and then people crushed in the carriage usually colored and I can still see all that and just after the impact the start of the groans didn't see me smaller I just wanted to run away 7:20 p.m. 11 minutes after the disaster the first rescue workers arrive at the Garda Leone dr. Rene jancovici a war hardened surgeon who saw brutal fighting in the Civil War in chad has never seen anything like it well an application was like a can of sardines that had been opened it was totally horrific there were bodies falling out of windows which were all cut up you could see decapitated people amputated people it wasn't like surgery in wartime it was much worse the scale of the disaster quickly becomes apparent rescue workers estimate that over a hundred people are trapped in the crushed and twisted train Colet Puckle a is one of them the young mother is pinned between two seats in the first carriage I don't realize that I'm crushed under the metal or that a train has crashed into us all I am thinking is that I want to get off the train is aa 7:30 p.m. many of the passengers have suffered serious injuries in the collision medics must act fast but there's a problem the crumpled metal of the Train prevents rescuers from reaching many of the survivors the medics can only stand by while the emergency workers use cutting equipment and steam hammers to get through the tangled mess of if you'll not only could hear the sound of compressors the exploding of windows caving in under the pressure we could also hear wailing people calling finally the rescue team is able to free Colette from the metal seats trapping her 11 PN Collette is one of the lucky ones dozens of others are still trapped under tons of wreckage medic doctor jungle vici and his team make a grim decision he realizes the only way of fraying the most seriously injured in time is to amputate they're trapped limbs once on the platform the full extent of Colette's injuries becomes apparent her hip and pelvis are fractured and she has lost a dangerous amount of blood doctors fear she may not make it through the night the mayor of Paris Jacques Chirac and the Minister of Transport visit the scene of the crash the rail operator SNCF is a state-owned company they want answers and quickly 12:00 noon now the weary emergency teams are only recovering bodies the mangled trains are finally torn apart and the runaway is pulled away for analysis by the accident investigation teams 56 people are dead and 57 are injured in the hospital Colette's heart stops beating but doctors managed to resuscitate her it's three months before she's well enough to go home to her son Parisians grieve for the people killed in the guard Elyon train crash it's the worst rail disaster in the French capital's history but there is anger too France is one of Europe's most sophisticated rail networks many safety procedures are in place to prevent an accident like this how did such a major disaster strike here the runaway train was a Zee 5300 they're up to 140 trains of the same design in use on rail routes into Paris since the brakes on Solon's train appear to have failed could other trains of this type also harbor a dangerous hidden flaw the next day the French government appoints a six man team to conduct a state investigation now by rewinding the events of that fateful day and by going deep into the investigation we can reveal what really happened at the guard to Lyon why did the train's brakes fail why did no one reroute the train to safety and why did many passengers on platform to find out too late that a runaway train was heading straight for them advanced computer simulation will take us where no camera can into the heart of the disaster zone investigators move the wreck to runaway train to a side track three days later they begin an inch by inch examination of the shattered Hawk to find out what went wrong with its braking system jean-pierre Pascal is the investigation team's chief technical adviser he is head of the National Research Laboratory of Transport and an expert on rail braking systems Pascal is shocked by the scale of the disaster this accident at Gare de Lyon is important because of the number of victims and the scale of the catastrophe it was exceptional it wasn't something that I could have even contemplated I had never seen anything like it could never ever stop pascale knows that over the past seven years terrorists have been bombing French trays have they now found a devastating new way to cause carnage on their French rail network if so thousands of innocent travelers could be at risk of attack jean-pierre pascal is investigating what caused a runaway train to crash at the Garda lyon killing 56 people his first job is to examine the crashed trade he knows the brakes failed and needs to understand why as he sifts through the wreckage he immediately finds something suspicious it appears a crucial brake valve has been closed hoping the valve that feeds air down through the Train to work the brakes was closed it should have been open it's a disturbing discovery did someone interfere with the brakes on the runaway train investigators must consider a shocking possibility that the runaway train was the victim of the deliberate act of sabotage the brakes are powered by compressed air generated in the engine carriage the air is forced down a pipe which runs the entire length of the eighth carriage train each carriage has an individual brake unit that gets air from this pipe there's a valve on the pipe at the rear of the engine carriage on the runaway train the lever controlling this brake valve is shut preventing air from traveling through the Train to power the brakes investigators believe there is only one possible conclusion someone must have closed the valve the scale realizes that whoever did this must have had specialist knowledge of the trains braking system so he doesn't believe it bears the hallmarks of a terrorist attack yet it is clear that the valve has been shut so who closed it he questions the trains driver Daniel Stalin and guarded jon bovi to see if they can shed any light on the mystery the Len tells him the brakes were working fine for the first 58 minutes of the journey they even bring the train to a quick stop when someone pulls the emergency alarm at Baird the Mazzone thirty three minutes to disaster the valve must have been closed after this event did the person who pulled the emergency cord be involved no one can explain why she pulled the cord and she was gone before the guard could question her the media puts out an appeal to find out who pulled the emergency cord the day after the crash Odile miroir a 21 year old single mother comes forward Mir Y explains that she normally takes this train to ver them is on to pick up her children from school she doesn't know that the new summer timetable means the train no longer stops their panicking about not being at school in time she pulls the emergency cord it automatically activates the brakes throughout the Train investigator jean-pierre Pesce concludes that her actions are irresponsible but not suspicious now Pascal probes the guard movie about what happened after the train was abruptly halted at their demo zone guard bovi tells him that he goes to reset the emergency court handle but the handle is stuck he can't shift it the reset handle for the emergency brakes is between the first and second carriage the handle is also very close to the crucial brake valve lever that Pascal discovered had been closed but neither man recalls anything strange about the lever the train drivers so n now tries it but it's stuck I didn't see exactly what he was doing we were in a very small space there are maybe 20 inches between the carriages after several minutes of sweating soul and finally shifts the handle returning the brakes to normal but when he returns to his cab the brakes are still locked Pascal is puzzled why didn't the standard resetting procedure unlock the brakes he scrutinizes the layout of the braking system on the runaway train and discovers something intriguing if the brake pipe valve is turned to the off position a safety mechanism kicks in keeping the brakes locked even after resetting the emergency cord it's a fail-safe system to stop a train from going anywhere without pressurized brakes Pascal had thought someone closed the valve maybe in an act of sabotage now he suspects there may be another explanation could Solan have closed it by mistake he examines his interview with Solan more closely when we interviewed him when we asked him questions he admitted it he said I touched that lever to help myself get a good grip he did it to try and free the handle he thought was stuck he broke a key for sequencing it confirms Pascal's hunch while trying to reset the emergency court handle Solon uses the main brake pipe lever to get more leverage as he struggles with the emergency court handle he inadvertently moves the brake pipe lever without knowing it closing it so Len thinks he has simply reset the emergency cord handle but by closing the brake pipe valve he has cut off the air supply from the engine that feeds the brakes throughout the Train the brakes in the last seven carriages are now locked in the on position but if the brakes are left on how does so land get the train moving again the only ways to release the locked brakes are by repressurizing the entire system or by manually unlocking each brake standard procedure dictates that solon should call the engineers who would have detected his terrible mistake but anxious to get going so len ignores the rules and tries to unlock the brakes himself he doesn't realize that he's moved the brake lever and that the system is locked due to lack of pressure instead he's convinced the brakes are locked because of another common problem Solon believes there's an air lock in the brake system which can sometimes happen when the emergency cord is pulled causing too much pressure around the individual brakes he thinks that if he can bleed some of it out the airlock will dissipate and the brakes will Mamaki Solon works his way along all seven carriages assisted by Bovie mr. solo purged the brakes until I said it was fine I'm not really a technician but I assisted his actions it works the brakes are freed but Solon's actions are catastrophic we misjudged he has not cleared an airlock and reset the brakes to normal instead he has bled away what little air was still left in the system he's freed the bricks but also in a certainty overridden one of the failsafe systems and with the main brake pipe valve closed there's no way for new air to come in and replenish the system with no air left in the system the Train barely has brakes Pascal and the team have uncovered a horrifying catalog of human error Solan not only disabled the main system for feeding air into the brakes he painstakingly disarmed every single brake on the train 7:02 p.m. Solan finally sets off again for Paris's guard de Lyon anxious to make up time he accelerates to nearly 70 miles per hour now a 300-ton train with 1/8 of the braking power it needs is heading for Paris's guarded Lyon but there's still a chance to stop the train according to the new summer timetable there's one more scheduled stop it Maison al for 4 miles from guard the Leo Mazzone al 4 is on level ground had stolen tried his brakes here he would have had plenty of time to come to a natural stop two and a half miles before Paris Pascal needs to find out why Solan didn't discover his brakes weren't working at Maison al fora he questions Andre Toulon's the Duty controller had guard de Leon that night the train is now running 26 minutes late and may throw other trains in the busy timetable off schedule to make up lost time to Lance orders Solon not to stop and Maison al4 and continued direct to guard the Leone six minutes to disaster Solenn drives straight through the station the last chance to use his brakes before the hill down into guard the Leone is lost yet Pascal knows there are still two safety procedures in place to avert catastrophe there's a backup electric-powered break in the train and that guard the Lyon station staff could have used the points to divert the runaway to an empty stretch of track so why did both fail he turns to the last leg of the runaway trains journey to explore Seoul ends actions after he discovers his brakes are faulty two minutes to disaster a yellow signal indicates two Solenn to start slowing down his train is just over a mile from guard to lyon a scow analyzes the onboard tachograph which records the train speed even with just one working break Solon manages to slow the train from sixty to just 28 miles per hour but then he hits the 4 degree grade heading down to the station and picks up speed again even though Solan still has one last chance to slow down the runaway train investigators know that his train has an auxilary electric power brake system it's designed to slow trains going at high speed to save wear on the brake pads so why doesn't he use it so Len reveals that bovi did go in search of a handbrake in one of the carriages but Pascal knows that even if he had found it it would have been useless the handbrake is only designed to stabilize the stationary train and isn't powerful enough to stop a train at high speed yet the auxiliary brakes which could have effectively slowed the Train are operated from the driver's cab right under so lens nerves Pascal discovers that drivers hate the electric brake they avoid using it because it can cause problems elec or gps auditor from a boutique the combination of air power and electric brakes can often cause jams locking the wheels in general drivers don't use it Ludovic TD Spa Solon was on accustomed to using the electric brake and in his panic he simply forgot it was there Pascal calculates that if Solon had applied the electric brake in combination with a sole working air brake in the driver's carriage he could have slowed the train enough to avoid a major collision so Lenz terrible oversight means he loses his last chance to halt the runaway train but one safety system at the station still remains Pascal turns to the actions of the station staff standard procedure when faced with a runaway train is to identify it and divert it safely to an empty stretch of track so why didn't this happen one and a half minutes from collision controller two lands tells Pascal that he hears so Lenz distress call over the radio I've got no brakes I've got no brakes in any communication with the controller the driver should give his name and position stop everything I've got no brakes stop everything but in his panic so Len makes a terrible mistake he doesn't identify himself - lance has no idea which train the distress call came from and so lands voice is so distorted with emotion - Lance doesn't recognize him if he can't identify the train he can't divert it the controller tells investigators that when he tries to contact the mystery driver again there's no response so LAN must have left his cab they realized that this episode leaves two lands in a terrible predicament all the controller knows is that the runaway train must be one of the four trains bound for the underground platforms investigators learn the toll ants and a staff try to call all the four drivers if they can eliminate the three that are not in trouble they'll be able to identify the runaway train and divert it to an empty stretch of track but there's a problem the forceful when left his cab he hit the general alarm it sent a high-pitched whistle through all trains on the network telling drivers to stop until they receive instructions drivers start to call toll ants to find out what's going on and to Lance explains that this barrage of calls prevents him from identifying the runaway in time to divert it but investigators are about to discover that even at this stage disaster was not inevitable on reaching the station salons train was supposed to be routed into platform one an empty platform so how did it end up crashing into a packed commuter train French investigators on Pierre Pascal has discovered that station staff and guard de Leon couldn't divert the runaway train away from the packed commuter train because the driver failed to identify himself but when Pascal explores the final moments before the collision he makes a startling discovery Pascal learns that guard de Leon's train routing technology allows signalers to program the points in advance the inbound trains route into the station should have been pre-programmed earlier that day before the crisis the runaway train was on track to s heading for the commuter train on platform 2 but 561 yards before the station a set of points on the track were supposed to automatically switch so lenss train off line to s and into platform one which was empty the runaway train still would have hit the buffers at the end of the track but Pascal is convinced the crash would have been far less devastating in my opinion no one would have been hurt the train would have been wrecked but there would have been no injuries did the signalers forget to program the points a scale finds that there was no oversight the signalers did their job correctly so what went wrong pascale probes the final moments leading up to the fatal collision he discovers that when signalers here at the general alarm regulations demand that they initiate what's called the general closure procedure all signals turn red stopping all trains from moving anywhere on the lines in and out of guard the Lyon but the closure procedure has drastic consequences that the signalers could not foresee it destroys the last chance to avert catastrophe in order to give the signal errs full manual control of the network it overrides all automatic pre-programming of routes the points no longer automatically reroute soul ends train into an empty platform instead the points lock in their current position the collision is now unstoppable it's the final piece of the puzzle investigators to now understand the convergence of events that caused the Garda lyon train crash our runaway train was left speeding toward Paris while the safety mechanisms fail and how a final twist of fate left hundreds of homeward bound rail passengers seconds from disaster 33 minutes to disaster on the Milan to Paris train a young woman pulls the emergency cord slamming on the brakes the emergency cord must be reset to return the brakes to normal before the train can depart while doing so drivers souland inadvertently closes the air supply to the brakes rendering them useless and locked on 20 minutes to disaster Solan mistakenly diagnosis an airlock and bleeds air from the brakes to clear it seven minutes to go the inbound train resumes its fateful journey to guard the Lyon station but what no one knows is that now it only has a small fraction of its normal braking power two minutes to impact then tries to brakes but gets almost no response he radios the station but forgets to identify himself or the Train 90 seconds to disaster Selene hits the emergency alarm which prompts signalers to override the automatic routing system that would take the runaway train to an empty platform and sets the runaway train on a collision course with a packed commuter train on platform to disaster is inevitable fifteen seconds to disaster delay driver Andre Tanguy sees the onrushing trade and orders his passengers to evacuate as the train heads straight for him he stays at his post to repeat the warning the collision claims 56 lives investigators conclude that had it not been for tondee's brave self-sacrifice many more would have died the self-effacing Andre tungee emerges as the hero of the guard de Lyonne tragedy Pascal and the investigation team find that the main cause of the guardedly own crash is driver error but they also highlight several technical and safety shortcomings in the rail system they find that the brake pipe lever was too easily accessible and vulnerable to sabotage the radio system was overly complex and drivers needed more training in its use and they recommend that signalers should be able to close all signals without overriding all pre-programmed routes whoa deal near wha who pulled the emergency cord Daniel salad and controller tollens all faced criminal charges for their role in the accident to Lance and miroir were cleared Daniel stolen served six months of a four-year prison sentence for manslaughter Colette piccoli made a full recovery from her injuries but she remains angry that the Bucks stopped with Solan the runaway train driver she believes the train company should also take responsibility my feeling is that the SNCF is at fault those AgrAbility the SNCF as a whole it's not one person or two people it's a whole bunch of things that went wrong that day Susan in the wake of the tragedy SNCF introduces a slew of new safety measures it overhauls its driver training program and faces out to brake pipe levers regular communication on the network is also upgraded hard lessons were learned from the tragic events at the guard early on and modernization came at a high price but in the wake of the disaster France now has one of the safest and most technologically advanced rail networks in Europe