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9 dead, 212 hurt in Argentina as two trains and a bus collide

At least 9 people were killed in a crash involving two trains and a bus whose driver drove around barriers in an attempt to beat them across the tracks, Argentine authorities said.
/ Source: staff and news service reports

At least nine people were killed in Argentina's capital Buenos Aires Tuesday in a rush-hour crash involving two passenger trains and a bus whose driver allegedly drove around barriers in an attempt to beat them across the tracks.

The Associated Press reported that 212 people were injured, many seriously, and they were taken to at least seven hospitals around Buenos Aires, some by helicopter.

Officials warned the death toll, which earlier stood at seven, could rise.

"Doctors have confirmed the deaths of seven people, but there still isn't a definitive toll of the victims," federal police spokesman Fernando Sostre told the AFP news agency.

The Buenos Aires Herald newspaper reported that at least 50 people were critically injured.

Argentine Transportation Secretary J.P. Schiavi said the bus driver was among those killed. He said the barriers appeared to be functioning normally, but added that investigators were studying videotape of the accident.

The bus was hit by an oncoming train as it tried to cross the tracks and was crushed into the nearby platform.

A wounded passenger is carried out a train after it crashed in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011. At least seven people were killed and at least 162 injured in a rush-hour crash Tuesday involving two passenger trains and a bus whose driver drove around barriers in an attempt to beat them across the tracks, Argentine authorities said. (AP Photo/Rodolfo Pezzoni,DyN)Rodolfo Pezzoni / DyN

That train then flew off the tracks and hit another that was traveling in the opposite direction.

Child, 2, rescued
The force of the arriving train reduced the bus to a fraction of its width as it became wedged against the station platform.

Schiavi said children were among those injured in the crashes, which happened at 6:15 a.m. local time (5:15 a.m. ET) next to the Flores station, just when many parents use public transportation to take their children to school.

Firefighters "rescued people who were in the bus, in the train and on the platform," including a two-year-old child from under the platform, Fire Chief Omar Bravo told AFP.

Reporters at the scene challenged the claim that the barriers were working properly, saying some witnesses had reported that one of the barriers had descended only part-way down, leaving room for the bus to try to drive across the tracks despite the warning bells.

Train company spokesman Gustavo Gago that the bus had "crossed on to the level-crossing when the barriers were low, but we await the results of the investigation to see if this is what happened."

The BBC, citing Argentine newspaper Clarin, said firefighters took two hours to free one of the train drivers from the wreckage.

Buenos Aires' passenger rail system moves at street level through most neighborhoods of the capital and surrounding provinces, trying the patience of drivers who often can be seen ignoring the lights, bells and barriers that signal an approaching train.

The potential for collisions increases at rush-hour, particularly next to stations, with trains passing and barriers dropping every few minutes.

In February, a long distance train struck a suburban passenger train, leaving four dead and 120 injured, AFP said.