The accident happened on Monday evening on a level crossing in Morlanwelz. There were repair works under way, following a vehicle being mowed down by a train. After being mowed down, the vehicle then caught fire. This incident caused the death of two Infrabel workers, and seriously injured two others. This was announced by the La Louvière fire crew, when giving a press conference. Five passengers aboard a passenger train were then injured, during a second collision.
As alluded to above, on Monday morning, a train mowed down a vehicle which caught fire close to the Parc de Mariemont in Morlanwelz. The fire itself caused no injuries but damaged the electric railcar, and paralysed the so called “Wallonian Backbone” between Mons and Charleroi. At the beginning of the evening, Infrabel technical teams were replacing two portions of 6 metres of rail, as well as a damaged signal box. This was with a view to rail traffic resuming operation on Tuesday morning.
During the hauling manoeuvre, shortly before 8 p.m., the damaged convoy however detached from the recovery train in Piéton, and travelled around 14 kilometres. This was detailed by Luc Lallemand, the CEO of Infrabel, during a press conference. Warned of the separation of the coupling by the driver of another train, the signal operators cut the electrical supply on the line in vain.
The convoy next mowed down the Infrabel workers who were repairing the lines at Morlanwelz. The Captain of the La Louvière fire service, Frank Taminiaux, stated that his fire crews sent three members of the SMUR (emergency services) as well as three ambulances to the premises. They noted the death of two workers, and a further two, who were seriously injured, were taken to hospitals in the region. The emergency response plan was set in motion.
The railway police force mentioned that a further worker had disappeared, but this hypothesis was discarded following investigations with the assistance of a thermal imaging camera.
However after this first accident, the convoy continued its route for around 20 minutes and crashed into a passenger train in Bracquegnies, near La Louvière. It injured a further five people, from a slight to a moderate degree. At this point a second emergency response plan was instigated. Thus the SMUR from La Louvière, as well as other local towns and municipalities arrived on the scene. The injured were admitted to hospital.
There are now several investigations under way, and the Office of the Judge Advocate for Labour is in charge of the case.
Present at Morlanwelz, the Federal Minister for Transport François Bellot (also a Walloon politician), said that his thoughts were very much with the victims and their families. He expressed his solidarity for “these workers who give of their best to keep our railways running on a daily basis.”