On June 3, 1998, the small town Eschede
on Lower Saxony
became the location of the worst railway disaster in Germany
since 1947. At 10:59 o'clock local time, the high-speed ICE
train 884 Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen
, having left Hannover
on its way to Hamburg derail
ed and hit a bridge, which collapsed and buried two of the train's cars under it, while those that followed after crashed into the debris at close to 200 km/h
. This unfortunate location of the derailment caused the terribly high number of 101 people killed and 103 injured.
The cause of the accident was later determined to have been a broken train wheel tyre (the ICE's wheels are surrounded by a metal tyre, with a rubber strip in between to reduce vibrations). This already happened 6 km before the bridge, and was barely noticed by the passengers. Unfortunately, a part of the tyre got caught in the train's carriage and eventually caused the train to derail when it hit a switch about 200 meters before the bridge. About 120 meters later, the derailed car hit a second switch and damaged it so severely that all following cars were guided off the track, causing them to hit the central support of the bridge.
The only mitigating factor about this disaster was that rescue operations were conducted quickly and efficiently, with many different organizations cooperating exceptionally well.
The blame was put mainly on the Deutsche Bahn AG, namely for insufficient inspections of the tyres and the lack of a warning system which could have prevented the disaster, had it caused an emergency stop after detecting the broken tyre.