11 March 2013

Namibia: Train Derails, Assistant Driver Killed

TWO locomotives pulling 35 container wagons loaded with magnesium derailed just east of the Arandis railway station on Thursday evening. The assistant driver died and the driver was admitted to the intensive care unit in Swakopmund's Cottage MediClinic hospital.

Erongo's regional crime investigation coordinator, Deputy Commissioner Ottilie Kashupuulwa, told The Namibian that brake failure is suspected to be the cause of the accident. The deceased, 46-year-old Billy Owoseb, was a resident of Kuisebmond in Walvis Bay. He died of his injuries in hospital.

Kashupuulwa said the train was coming from Okahandja to Walvis Bay harbour.

"The police and TransNamib are investigating," she said.

This is the second derailment in about four months near the coast. In December, another train, also transporting magnesium to the harbour, derailed at Dune 7. Two TransNamib locomotives and 17 loaded wagons came off the track due to a piece of the railway line being damaged the night before, allegedly by a truck that got stuck on the line. No one was injured but it cost TransNamib more than N$65 million in damages.

At the scene of Thursday's accident, most of the wagons were piled together, forming a heap of more than ten metres high. The two locomotives lay on their sides - the leading locomotive more than 50 metres from the track. Two sets of wagon wheels rolled more than 200 metres ahead of the wreck, indicating the impact and speed of the train before it derailed.

A ten-metre-long trench, about one and a half metres deep, was on the one side of the railway line, indicating the point where the derailment may have started.

About four kilometres east from the main wreckage, three container wagons also derailed just after a turn in the line and were scattered in the surrounding environment.

According to a statement by TransNamib on Friday afternoon, there were no other passengers on board.

The company said the accident cause extensive damage to the railway.

"TransNamib hereby confirms the immediate cancellation of the passenger train service between Windhoek and Walvis Bay, as well as the temporary closure of rail traffic between Arandis and Usakos until further notice. All other passenger as well as goods trains around the country will not be affected by this accident and will therefore operate as usual," the statement read.

The full extent of the damage and the immediate rehabilitation of the rail and other infrastructure damaged in the derailment will be assessed.

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