Argentine train wreck kills 3, injures hundreds

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 13, 2013 at 9:39 pm •  Published: June 13, 2013

The provincial health ministry said at least three passengers were killed and 315 injured. Some suffered skull fractures and exposed broken bones, said Marcelo Marmonto, who directs the Luis Guemes hospital in Haedo.

At least five of the injured were in very serious condition, and one youth's leg had to be amputated, Gov. Daniel Scioli said after visiting with some of the victims.

Passengers on the Sarmiento line are accustomed to squeezing into extremely crowded cars during peak commuting times, but these trains had many fewer people on board because they were headed outbound from Argentina's capital.

Union leader Ruben Sobrero defended the workers and said the train should not have been brought into service. It had been in the shop for six months, then brought online, only to be withdrawn again because of brake problems, he said. Union members had warned of brake dangers, but it was brought into service anyway, Sobrero alleged.

Randazzo, named by Fernandez to improve the commuter rail system after last year's fatal crash, said a "black box" recording the train's movements would point to those responsible, but he too cast doubt on brake failure. "It had new brakes," he insisted.

Opposition politicians said the government bears blame.

"The accident puts into evidence the absence of the state, the laziness and the lack of concern for the life of the citizens," Radical party congresswoman Elsa Alvarez said in a statement. "Is this the transportation revolution the national government has been announcing?"

After last year's wreck at the Once station, Fernandez promised to prosecute anyone responsible and make new investments in safety. She revoked the concession run by Mario and Sergio Cirigliano, two brothers who own many companies involved in maintaining Argentina's rail systems, and formed a state-supervised consortium of companies to operate the commuter lines.

The Cirigliano brothers, along with two former transportation secretaries, are among 28 defendants awaiting trial on criminal charges stemming from last year's crash, but they remain deeply involved in Argentina's train system.

It was the Cirigliano brothers' shop that worked on the brakes of the train that failed to stop in time Thursday.

"The train that hit the other was repaired in EMFER, which is controlled by the Ciriglianos, the businessmen responsible for the tragedy," said Paolo Menghini, who lost his son Lucas in the Once station crash, according to the local DyN news agency. "They cannot be sending trains to be repaired at EMFER."

But Randazzo said the government has no choice but to keep using the Ciriglianos' businesses, because the need for train repairs is so great that all available resources in the country are already at maximum capacity.