VOORSCHOTEN, Netherlands—A passenger train in the Netherlands rammed into a maintenance crane on the railway tracks early on Tuesday, killing the equipment operator and injuring dozens of passengers as the train derailed, officials and local media said.
The maintenance work was planned and standard, but “we have no idea how the crane got on the track which was still open for traffic,” John Voppen, the CEO of railway infrastructure firm ProRail, said at a news briefing.
Rescue teams ferried away the injured at the scene of the pre-dawn incident in Voorschoten, a village near The Hague. The accident happened at around 3:25 a.m. (0125 GMT), emergency services said.
Some of the injured were treated on the spot and some in nearby homes, while 19 were taken to hospital.
“The crane was part of maintenance work on two tracks which were closed for traffic, while two other of the total of four tracks remained open for train traffic,” ProRail’s Voppen said.
Train services will be suspended for days on one of the busiest routes in the Netherlands, between The Hague and Leiden, due to the incident, ProRail said.
There will be several investigations to ascertain the reasons for the crash and to set up prevention measures, officials said.
Jeroen Wienen, a spokesman for ProRail, said a freight train had hit the crane as well.
Dutch construction group BAM confirmed that an employee had died in the accident.
The driver of the passenger train is in hospital with bone fractures, Dutch railways NS CEO Wouter Koolmees said at the news conference.
The front carriage of the night train from Leiden city to The Hague derailed and ploughed into a field, emergency services said. The second carriage was on its side. A fire that broke out near the train was promptly extinguished.
Ingrid de Roos, from the Hollands Midden emergency services, said “there was just panic” on the train after it derailed. She said emergency services were quick to arrive and evacuate people.
“In an hour all the people, all the injured had been transported to hospitals,” she told Reuters.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the Netherlands’ royal family were among those who expressed their sympathy for the victims.
“My thoughts are with the relatives and with all the victims. I wish them all the best,” Rutte said in a tweet.
“We deeply sympathize with all of them,” King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima said. Willem-Alexander later visited the site of the accident, about 10 kilometers from his residential palace.
By Toby Sterling