After the train accident near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, helpers are working flat out to find all the missing people. A fifth victim was discovered under a wagon. Bavaria’s Prime Minister Söder has meanwhile gotten an idea on site.

The wagons are still lying overturned next to the track. Windows have been blown out and debris is scattered. The helpers worked all night under floodlights. With two cranes and air cushions, they tried to lift the train parts, which weighed tons – without success at first. Then it succeeded – and the rescuers discovered, according to the police, a fifth victim under the rubble. People have laid a bouquet of flowers at the top of the car bridge next to the scene of the accident.

On Friday, a regional train derailed here in the Upper Bavarian holiday region. It is one of the worst rail accidents in Germany in recent years. So there are now at least five dead and three seriously injured, plus about three dozen minor injuries. According to Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU), the dead were women.

Markus Söder: train accident is “stab in the heart”

The morning after, however, it is still not clear whether there are even more victims under the rubble. Because a single-digit number of people was still missing on Saturday. Herrmann spoke of about seven according to BR information.

The hope: that these people were on the road elsewhere and will still get in touch. “We very much hope that there will be no more deaths,” says Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU), who was visibly shocked by the situation on Saturday.

The train was also occupied by school children – on the last day of school before the Whitsun holidays. “It’s just before the holidays, there’s a relaxed atmosphere on the train, in one of the most beautiful regions Bavaria has – and then something like that happens and may change a life completely,” says Söder. He speaks of a shock and a “stab in the heart”. “It’s an incredible event.” It is one of the worst rail accidents in recent years.

Search for victims in Garmisch-Partenkirchen continues

The cause of the accident is still unclear. According to the police, the only thing that can be ruled out so far is a collision with another vehicle. “The exact cause of the accident has not yet been determined. All experts on site were of the opinion that the most likely cause would have to be a technical defect on the track or on the train,” said Bavaria’s Transport Minister Christian Bernreiter (CSU) on Saturday.

A helicopter circles over the scene of the accident again and again on Saturday. The night before, the helpers had already felled numerous trees between the tracks and the main road running alongside them with chainsaws in order to be able to work better. Crash barriers were cut away. Twice during the night the forces tried in vain to lift a wagon that had completely overturned.

The helpers fear that there could still be dead people underneath. Only when this has been clarified and other possible victims have been recovered can the removal of the damaged wagons begin, as THW operations manager Bernhard Schrallhammer says. Like many of his colleagues, he has been on his feet for 20 hours.

Politicians can see for themselves at the scene of the accident

According to Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, up to 650 helpers were on duty, and she had already seen the situation herself on Friday evening. Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) and Bahn boss Richard Lutz were also expected on Saturday.

Lifting the wagon, which weighs around 50 tons, is difficult. “The parts of the train that crashed are heavily wedged and twisted, you have to proceed step by step, flex parts away,” says Martin Emig, spokesman for the police headquarters in Upper Bavaria South.

The work will take a while, we were talking about a week or more. The main road next to the tracks will also remain closed for a week, says Emig. The day before, Bernreiter had already warned that Garmisch-Partenkirchen should be largely bypassed – and it will be difficult to get there by train – “and that the Werdenfelsbahn will not be passable for the next few days over Pentecost, that can definitely be said”.

Bad news just before the holidays, also for the people of Garmisch, who are preparing for the G7 summit at the end of June at Schloss Elmau – and even then they see fewer tourists, but at the same time considerable restrictions. Herrmann told Bayerischer Rundfunk: “You have to see to what extent construction work can be carried out with a view to the G7 summit.” During the summit at the end of June in nearby Elmau Castle, the Garmisch-Mittenwald route would be closed.