German Passengers Halt Runaway Tram, Prevent Disaster

December 24, 2019 Updated: December 24, 2019
FONT BFONT SText size

Passengers on a speeding tram heading for Bonn, West Germany, are being hailed for managing to stop the speeding vehicle by smashing into the driver’s cabin, preventing a disaster.

According to local newspaper General Anzeiger, after midnight on Sunday morning, the driver of the speeding tram passed through eight stations between the cities of Siegburg and Bonn in West Germany without responding to people on board the tram.

Two young men between 26 and 29 years old who were near the driver’s cabin heroically broke into it and got phone instructions from the control center of local public transportation company SWB, allowing them to bring the tram to a halt at the next station, according to police spokesman Robert Scholten, the General Anzeiger reported.

Police also confirmed that around 1 a.m. the police center station had received several emergency calls from terrified passengers on the tram, the Deutsche Welle reported.

The local police began an investigation on Monday and questioned several witnesses, including the two passengers who had reported themselves to the authorities.

The 47-year-old driver was taken to a hospital and released on Monday. According to the municipal spokeswoman, he is still undergoing psychological treatment.

Miraculously, no one was seriously injured. Only the two passengers who broke open the driver’s door that led into his cabin suffered slight hand injuries.

The mayor of Bonn, Ashok Sridharan, hailed the passengers on the tram for their heroic actions and said that the people on board the tram “likely saved lives” with their proper actions during the horrifying situation.

A police spokesman said there are two possible scenarios. The driver may have lost consciousness due to a medical emergency. In this case, the investigation can be directed against the driver. Another possible scenario could have been “dangerous interference in rail traffic.”

The incident caused harsh criticism against the local company SWB. According to the police statement, passengers tried to stop the vehicle by pulling the emergency brake lever, but it failed to stop the tram.

The representative of Social Democratic Party SPD, Gabi Mayer, who is a member of the SWB supervisory board, also criticized the incident and called it “a catastrophe for public utilities.” Her criticism became a headline throughout the country.

The authorities in SWB responded to critics by saying that the emergency brake is not designed to stop the vehicle, but rather to send out alerts to the driver. In this case, the driver can communicate with passengers on the vehicle and decide whether to bring the vehicle to a stop.

The prosecutors have launched investigations to see if technical problems caused the incident.