What we know so far about the German train crash in Bavaria

A regional train derailed on Friday in the southern German state of Bavaria, killing at least five people and injuring several more. Here's what we know so far.

The rescue operation got underway on Friday.
The rescue operation got underway on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

What happened?

The train was headed for Munich from the popular holiday resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen when it derailed on Friday at around 12.15pm. It happened in the district of Burgrain in the Loisachauen area.

It’s not clear why the crash happened.

Police on Friday afternoon said that four people had died and dozens were injured. A spokesman said 15 people were taken to hospitals for treatment. 

The death toll climbed to five on Saturday as a further body was recovered from the wreckage, police said.

The accident happened on the last day of school for Bavarian pupils ahead of the Whitsun holidays. There is also a nationwide holiday on Monday June 6th. 

A spokesman for the Garmisch-Partenkirchen district office said it could not be ruled out that there were many school pupils on the train. 

A view of the derailed train in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

A view of the derailed train in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/ADAC Luftrettung | ADAC Luftrettung

Stefan Sonntag, the press spokesman for Upper Bavaria’s police force, said the regional train was “very crowded and many people were using it, hence the high number of injured”.

It happened just two days after Germany’s €9 monthly public transport ticket launched. There had been worries about overcrowding on regional train services due to the cheap offer. 

READ ALSO: Five dead after German train derails near Bavarian resort

How did emergency services respond?

A massive rescue operation got underway after the crash, with around 500 staff at the scene. 

Emergency services said people were pulled out of windows of the overturned carriages.

Twelve rescue helicopters circled over the area, which lies near the Alps.

Aerial photos show that the double decker train was travelling on a long, single-track curve.

An aerial view shows the derailed train.

An aerial view shows the derailed train. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/ADAC Luftrettung

The section of track is elevated on a railway embankment, and several wagons slid off the embankment. The busy B2 road runs alongside the line. It was closed while the rescue operation was underway. 

Local police spokesman Sonntag said locals had called emergency services to alert them that a train had derailed. 

An American soldier was in one of the cars on the road next to the railway line when it happened. He told the Garmisch-Partenkirchner Tagblatt newspaper: “It was terrible,” he said. “Simply terrible. Suddenly the train flipped over.”

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn expressed its “deepest sympathy” to the victims’ families and set up a hotline for relatives.

“No statement can be made about the causes of the accident at this time,” Deutsche Bahn said.

Emergency services at the scene of the derailment.

Emergency services at the scene of the derailment. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

Investigations are underway into the cause of the crash. 

Bavarian state premier Minister Söder (CSU) told broadcaster BR24: “We mourn with the relatives. We pray and hope that everyone who is injured will soon recover.”

In a tweet, he also thanked the emergency services at the scene. 

Bavaria’s transport minister Christian Bernreiter (CSU) made his way to the scene of the accident, while federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) was also set to travel from Würzburg to the scene.

What else should I know?

Deutsche Bahn closed part of the line between Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Munich and put replacement transport in place. Road closures were also in place.

Police said the closures could stay in place into the weekend. 

Germany’s deadliest rail accident happened in 1998 when a high-speed train operated by state-owned Deutsche Bahn derailed in Eschede in Lower Saxony, killing 101 people.

Meanwhile, the resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and its surrounding regions are set to host the G7 summit of world leaders later this month.

From June 26-28th, the heads of state and government including US President Joe Biden are due to meet at Schloss Elmau – about 11 kilometres from Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Police and soldiers who had been deployed to secure the site ahead of the summit were diverted to help in the operation.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, an Alpine ski town known for its beautiful scenery, attracts tourists from across the world as well as being a popular destination for Germans. 

It lies in the Oberbayern region, which borders Austria, and is near Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze.

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Bavaria hit by severe snowstorms and gales

The German Weather Service (DWD) issued a severe weather warning in several parts of Bavaria on Thursday as the southern state was struck by heavy snowfall and 100km-per-hour winds.

Bavaria hit by severe snowstorms and gales

The heavy snowfall and high winds, which began on Wednesday, caused multiple accidents and delays on roads overnight in several parts of the state, according to police.

Since the early hours of the morning, there were “considerable traffic obstructions throughout Lower Bavaria due to the weather”, a spokesperson for the police said, adding that emergency services had been called out to around 100 incidents in the region.

“There have already been numerous traffic accidents and traffic disruptions due to the weather. Several vehicles have already had to be rescued from ditches and trees removed from the roadways.”

The extreme weather is expected to continue on Thursday across southern and eastern Germany, with “no end in sight” to the heavy snowfall, according to DWD. 

In districts near the Alps and the Bavarian Forest, gusts of up to 100 kilometres per hour and drifting snow are expected, meteorologists reported. 

In the eastern districts and along the Alps, meanwhile, DWD has forecasted severe snowstorms and thunder. In parts of Franconia, Lower Bavaria and the Upper Palatinate, torrential rain will continue throughout Thursday and potentially lead to flooding. 

On Thursday morning, DWD issued a stage 4 weather warning – the highest possible – for multiple districts in the state. Forecasters warned of icy roads, heavy downpours and thunderstorms throughout the day and into the evening.

Berchtesgadener Land, Rosenheim, Passau and Regensburg were among the 13 districts where warnings of severe storms were issued. 

READ ALSO: IN PHOTOS: Germany hit by sudden snowstorms and temperatures as low as -10C

Drivers were urged to take caution on icy roads and DWD also warned of potential avalanches in mountainous areas where up to 1.5m of fresh snowfall was expected.

The rain and snow is set to die down on Friday, but freezing temperatures could lead to icy and slippery conditions for drivers. 

Central and eastern German states – and parts of the Baltic coast – have also been experiencing turbulent storms in recent days, which meteorologists expect to last into Friday. 

By the weekend, however, the high winds and stormy conditions are expected to have largely died down, with overcast skies, patchy rainfall and highs of around 11C.