Fatal German train derailment last year caused by faulty concrete ties, investigators say
Stars and Stripes June 1, 2023
The train derailment that killed five people last year in the German Alps near the Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen was caused primarily by flawed concrete ties on the track, German rail operator Deutsche Bahn said Thursday.
That was the conclusion reached in investigators’ preliminary report, which was issued nearly one year after the June 3, 2022, disaster involving a double-decker regional train bound for Munich.
A 13-year-old boy and four women between the ages of 30 and 70 were killed. Two of the women were refugees from Ukraine. More than 70 people were injured in the derailment.
One of the first people who arrived to help at the crash scene was U.S. Army Col. Charles Bergman, an exchange officer serving with the German 10th Panzer Division, who was driving to meet his family after training with the German military.
He witnessed the train jump the tracks. Entering one of the derailed train cars, Bergman aided a woman with two injured young children, one of whom was a 4-year-old whose head was pinned against trees and bushes.
In March, Bergman received the Soldier’s Medal, the Army’s highest individual noncombat award, in recognition of his actions.
Deutsche Bahn, the national railway operator, began replacing numerous concrete ties as a precaution. On Wednesday, the company said approximately 200,000 ties initially were thought to be affected nationwide.
Further investigations revealed that a type of rock used in the production of the concrete ties could be a contributing factor.
In light of these findings, Deutsche Bahn expanded its inspection program in November 2022 to include an additional 130,000 ties made with the same type of rock.
Following the investigation, the company announced plans to replace approximately 480,000 ties this year, significantly more than the usual 80,000 replacements annually.
The extensive repairs have created about 400 additional construction sites throughout the rail network, causing noticeable delays for train services.
To ensure safety, trains in the affected sections must operate at reduced speeds until the ties are replaced.