Soldier killed, five others injured in autobahn accident near Bamberg
By MARCUS KLÖCKNER AND JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 25, 2012
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — One U.S. soldier was killed and five others were injured when a large truck slammed into the rear of their slow-moving military convoy Tuesday afternoon on the autobahn south of Bamberg, German police and U.S. Army officials said.
The soldiers were part of the same company within the 21st Theater Sustainment Command and are stationed in the Schweinfurt area, said Army Capt. Gregory Jones, a spokesman for the 21st TSC in Kaiserslautern.
Two of the soldiers received life-threatening injuries, one was seriously injured and two were slightly injured, according to German police. The truck driver had minor injuries, German police said.
Jones said he could not confirm nor describe the extent of the soldiers’ injuries because of health privacy rules.
The name of the soldier who died and his unit were to be released late Wednesday night, 24 hours following notification of the soldier’s next of kin, per Defense Department policy, Jones said.
German police reported that the soldier killed was 28 years old.
The crash occurred at 2:15 p.m. on Autobahn A73 between the Hirschaid and Bamberg exits when a 38-year-old truck driver from Nuremberg hit the last Humvee in a three-vehicle convoy, according to information from German police and the 21st TSC.
The force of the collision pushed the rear Humvee forward into the rest of the convoy, said Alexander Czech, a spokesman for German police in Oberfranken.
The soldier who died and the two soldiers most seriously injured were riding in the rear Humvee, Czech said. Photos taken at the crash site by a local German news photographer showed the mangled remains of a green, black and brown camouflage Humvee, its back portion crushed. A green safety flag on the back of the Humvee, which Czech said was to alert other drivers to the slow-moving convoy, appeared bent in the crash.
The military vehicles were driving between 50 and 60 kilometers – 31 to 37 miles per hour – Czech said.
It wasn’t immediately known how fast the truck driver was going at the time of impact.
An alcohol test on the truck driver was negative, Czech said. It doesn’t appear that the driver intentionally crashed the 26-ton truck into the convoy, he said.
“At this time, it looks like human failure caused the accident,” Czech said. The accident is under investigation, he said.
The convoy appears to have been following a German law requiring motorists on the autobahn to warn other vehicles if they are driving slowly. In addition to the signal flag, the last Humvee had a rear blinking light turned on, Czech said.
Jones said what safety precautions the convoy was following would be part of the Army’s investigation into the incident.
The autobahn was closed for several hours after the accident, according to a press release from the Oberfranken police. The estimated damage to both the truck and military vehicles was 50,000 euros (about $68,500), the German press release said.