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Runaway tram crashes 17 cars in Almaty, 5 injured

Photo © Territoriya Proishestviy Photo © Territoriya Proishestviy

A large road accident involving 17 cars and a runaway tram has taken place on the crossing of Baitursynov and Karasay Batyr streets in Almaty, Tengrinews reports.

Photos © Shokan Alkhabayev 

Photo © Territoriya Proishestviy

The accident happened at noon on September 21. 

According to witnesses, a tram #4 stopped on Shevchenko Street. After all the passengers left the tram, the driver got out of the tram to inspect the vehicle. At this point the tram started moving. Despite a fairly high speed it smoothly made a turn to  Baitursynov Street passing through a red light and sped on. Running downhill in continued gaining speed until it rammed through a line of cars waiting at the streetlight leaving a heap of distorted metal in its wake. The tram did not leave the rail and grazed the cars that were standing too close to the rail or on the rail.

Multiple witness confirmed that there was no driver in the runaway tram. The tram had a Trainee sign on it, which indicated that the driver was a trainee. The driver was reported by witnesses to be chasing the runaway tram on foot but failing to beat its speed.

Photos © Shokan Alkhabayev 

Photo courtesy of Alexey Alexeyev/facebook.com/veterkz

Some of the damaged cars were leaking gasoline, some there starting to smoke or releasing antifreeze steam from cracked radiators. So a fire crew was dispatched to the site to prevent escalation of the situation. Fortunately none of the vehicles caught fire. 

Speaker of the Passenger Transport Department of Almaty Asset Tuleushov said that there were two women driving the tram - one was a young trainee, the other one was an experienced driver. The trainee was inside when the tram started moving on its own accord, and the master-driver was outside fixing a technical problem. When the young trainee realized that she was unable to stop the tram and that the vehicle was gaining speed she jumped out of the running tram. This way the runaway tram ended up driverless like witnesses saw it.

Head of the press office of the Department of Interior Affairs (DIA) Saltanat Azirbek said that the female driver of the tram was taken to the hospital with a bruise on the occipital region of her head. She was discharged from the hospital the same day.

It is however unclear which of the two drivers sustained injuries and how, and which of them was chasing the runaway tram.

According to STV channel, the tramway crashed into a Mazda car on Shevchenko Street, then knocked down the left side mirror of a Toyota Rav 4. On the turn to Baitursynov Street, the tramway almost went off rails and crashed into a Forland truck. Then it created a mess out of a dozen cars crashing and crushing them together. All in all, 17 cars were damaged in the accident and 5 people were taken to the hospital with injuries of various severity.

Photo ©STV Channel

One of the pedestrians, according to car drivers, was hospitalized after being hit by a car. The young woman was crossing the road when the accident happened.

Two out of five injured were discharged from the hospital the same day after some medical tests, Chief Surgeon of the Healthcare Administration of Almaty Nurzhan Issabekov said. "One of the remaining patients - a woman - has a closed displaced spine fracture, spine cord injury and soft tissue bruises. Another patient - a man - has brain contusion, blunt abdominal trauma and soft tissue bruises," he said. Of the two the woman was in the most severe condition, she was in intensive care. As for the third injured person, his condition was also severe, but had improved, the doctor said. He spent the night of September 21 in the intensive care but was transfered to a regular care department in the morning. He has a closed head injury, brain concussion and soft tissue bruises on his ankle, doctor Issabekov said.

  

“The Department of Road Traffic Accidents of the Department of Interior Affairs has received materials of the criminal case (on the traffic accident). The case was registered in the National Register of Pre-Trial Investigations. Related expertise along with a complex of investigative measures will be made. The investigation will determine the circumstances of the accident,” the press office of the Department of Interior Affairs of Almaty said.

In the meanwhile, the tram drivers are blaming the police for the terrible accident.

AlmatyElectroTrans that owns the runaway tram said that a police crew demanded that the driver moved the broken tram away from a busy traffic intersection. The accident was a result of the attempt to move the tram.

"Approaching Nauryzbai Batyr street the driver and passengers felt a smell of something burning. The driver immediately stopped the tram and evacuated all the passengers. The tram was standing at the crossing of Nauryzbai Batyr street partly blocking some of the traffic lanes. Smoke was issuing from the engine of the second tramcar. The driver fully eliminated the source of fire using a fire extinguisher. The tram blocking the traffic lane created traffic jams on Shevchenko and Nauryzbai Batyr streets. A police crew arrived to deal with the situation and instructed the tram driver to immediately move the tram away from the intersection. To normalize the traffic flow the tram driver force-unblocked the tram's wheels," the company said. That forced unblocking must have put a start to the uncontrolled movement of the tram and ended in the tragic pellmell of metal.  

According to the speaker of the Passenger Transport Department of Almaty Asset Tuleushov all the damages caused by the accident will be compensated by insurance companies.

By Gyuzel Kamalova and Tatyana Kuzmina


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