Rome — Five railway workers died after being hit by a train during overnight maintenance on a track in northern Italy, prompting shock and outrage on Thursday.
The train, which was transporting empty carriages on the Milan-Turin line, was reportedly travelling at 160 kilometres (99 miles) per hour when it struck the team replacing parts of the track near Brandizzo, on the outskirts of Turin.
RFI, the company which manages Italy’s rail network, confirmed five maintenance workers employed by an external contractor had died after a train “not in commercial service” hit them shortly before midnight.
In a statement, it expressed its “deep sorrow” at the deaths of the workers and offered condolences to their families, adding that investigations were underway into the incident.
🇮🇹Italy: 5 employees were hit by a train and died
The freight train on the Milan – Turin route was traveling at a speed of 160 km/h when it collided with a group of track maintenance workers working near Brandizzo, a suburb of Turin, around midnight on August 30. pic.twitter.com/lNy3oo8Ng3
— Discover great things🧚🏿♂️ (@Discovery230892) August 31, 2023
The fire service confirmed that “five workers were killed by a passing train” and two others were injured. Media reports suggest the pair who escaped, including the foreman, were physically unharmed but under observation.
The bodies of the men who died, aged between 22 and 52 or 53 years old, were said to have been dragged for several metres.
The train driver, one of two people in the engine cab, was unharmed but in shock, according to Italian news agencies.
Paolo Bodoni, the mayor of Brandizzo, said an emergency worker had described to him a “chilling scene, with human remains across 300 metres”.
“It’s a huge tragedy,” he told the AGI news agency.
“It cannot be excluded that there could have been a communication error,” he said, but said that would be a matter for investigations.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni offered her “deepest condolences” to the men’s families and said she was closely following the case, “with the hope of shedding light on what happened as soon as possible”.
Her deputy premier and transport minister, Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right League party, also lamented a “terrible tragedy”.
“The rule is that works on the tracks can begin when it is confirmed that there are no trains on the line,” he said.
“Prosecutors and technicians are investigating how such a dramatic accident could have happened last night.”
Luigi Sbarra, the head of one of Italy’s biggest trade unions, CISL, said he was left “stunned” by the accident.
“Five workers died, five families… destroyed due to the failure to apply safety measures,” he said.
Apprendo con dolore e tristezza della tragica scomparsa dei cinque operai travolti da un treno mentre effettuavano alcuni interventi di manutenzione presso la stazione di Brandizzo, nel Torinese. Alle famiglie delle vittime e ai loro cari il mio profondo cordoglio e i più sinceri…
— Giorgia Meloni (@GiorgiaMeloni) August 31, 2023
TWEET TRANSLATION: I learn with pain and sadness of the tragic death of the five workers hit by a train while they were carrying out some maintenance work at the Brandizzo station, in the Turin area. To the families of the victims and their loved ones, my deepest condolences and most sincere feelings of closeness. I am in contact with the President of the Piedmont Region Cirio to follow all the updates on the case, with the hope of shed full light on what happened as soon as possible.
“It is yet another tragedy that outrages all Italian workers.”
The head of transport union Uiltrasporti, Claudio Tarlazzi, said the accident was “shameful and unworthy of a civilised country”.
He said his union had for some time raised safety concerns with RFI.
Elly Schlein, head of the centre-left Democratic Party, also offered her condolences to the victims of the “terrible massacre”.
While she said she would wait for the inquiries, she demanded an urgent plan of investment in safety in the workplace.
“One thing is already certain — we cannot be a country where people continue to die of work,” she said.
Two rail workers died and 31 people were injured in February 2020 when the train they were travelling on derailed before dawn near Lodi, south of Milan.
Before that Italy’s most recent serious train accident occurred in January 2018, when three women died and about 100 passengers were injured when a packed train derailed near Milan due to poor track maintenance.
The train line between Turin and Milan remained suspended on Thursday morning.