By Greg Keller
BRETIGNY-SUR-ORGE, FRANCE: A train carrying hundreds of passengers derailed and crashed into a station outside Paris on Friday on one of the busiest days of the year for vacation getaways. At least six people were killed and dozens were injured, officials said.
The crash was the deadliest in France in several years. French President Francois Hollande rushed to the scene at the Bretigny-sur-Orge station, 12 miles south of Paris. The Interior Ministry said some 192 people were either injured or being treated for shock — of which nine were in a critical condition.
Four of the seven train cars slid toward the station, crushing part of the metallic roof over the platform. Images on French television and on Twitter showed gnarled metal and shards on the platform, and debris from the crash clogging the stairwell leading beneath the platform.
Some 300 firefighters, 20 medical teams and eight helicopters were deployed to get survivors out of the metal wreckage, according to the Interior Ministry.
The accident came as France is preparing to celebrate its most important national holiday, Bastille Day, on Sunday, and as masses of vacationers are heading out of Paris and other big cities to see family or for summer vacation.
Hollande praised “the mobilization of the emergency services,” and reached out in “solidarity with the victims’ families.” He said an inquiry has been launched to determine the cause of the accident.
“The inquiries will be public so that there is absolutely no doubt on what happened,” he added.
Witnesses reported that the train was not moving at an excessive speed, deepening the mystery of what happened.
“I think it’s genuinely too early to start to give this or that hypothesis. Now, we’re still in the emergency operation,” said Interior Ministry spokesman, Pierre-Henry Brandet. “There’s some long work ahead from experts that will allow us to know the exact circumstances and the exact causes of this drama.”
Ben Khelifa, a 20-year-old accounting apprentice whose commuter train was on the adjacent track, told the Associated Press that the derailed train “was unrecognizable.
“There was nothing but metal scraps,” he said. “The train just collapsed, just like that, on its side... There was blood.”
He added that he was one of a number of passengers in the adjacent train that went to help pull trapped survivors out of the wreckage. “People were screaming, people were asking where their children were,” he said.