News & Current Affairs

September 14, 2008

Human error suspected in LA crash

Human error suspected in LA crash

Human error is being blamed for a train collision on the outskirts of Los Angeles, California, which has claimed the lives of at least 24 people.

The driver of a train with 222 passengers aboard apparently ignored a red signal, causing it to hit a freight train head on, the rail company says.

The passenger train hit the freight train with such force, its engine was shoved back inside the first carriage.

Officials say the chances of finding any further survivors are very remote.

Firefighters have cut through the roof of the train, which is a double-decker, removing chunks of metal piece by piece.

Sniffer dogs have been brought in to try to detect any signs of life.

A spokeswoman for the rail company Metrolink, Denise Tyrrell, told reporters:

“At this moment we must acknowledge that it was a Metrolink engineer that made the error that caused yesterday’s accident.”

It was not immediately clear whether the driver had survived.

The death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are uncovered. More than 80 people are in hospital.

Commuter train

The worst rail crash in the US for 15 years happened at 1632 local time (2332 GMT) on Friday, at a time when the passenger train was carrying 222 people, most of them commuters.

I heard a loud crash and I saw black smoke… some people were mangled pretty bad
Phil Thiele, Metrolink passenger

The passenger train was travelling from Los Angeles to Moorpark, north-west of the city.

It collided with a Union Pacific freight train on a curving stretch of track in Chatsworth, in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles county.

The front coach of the Metrolink passenger train derailed and was crushed by the engine after the collision. Two other coaches of the train remained upright.

Aerial images of the crash scene showed teams of rescuers using ladders to reach injured people inside the mangled front coach.

The Union Pacific freight train was badly damaged in the accident. Officials say two people – the driver and the conductor – were on board the train.

“I heard a loud crash and I saw black smoke… some people were mangled pretty bad,” Phil Thiele, one of the passengers in the front coach, told the Los Angeles Times.

He said he tried to help one man who was pinned between seats: “I tried my damnedest to get him out but I just couldn’t.”


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August 19, 2008

One dead, many hurt in bus crash

One dead, many hurt in bus crash

 Crashed coach [BBC exclusive pic from Karen Taylor]

The passengers were foreign workers [BBC exclusive pic from Karen Taylor]

One man died and 70 others were injured when a coach carrying migrant workers rolled down an embankment and overturned in Staffordshire.

The vehicle collided with a car, crashed through a wall and ended up in a garden in Alton, near Alton Towers theme park, just before 1800 BST.

Those aboard were from Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and South Africa.

Two people were flown to hospital and 29 others taken to hospital by road, ambulance officials said.

The man who died was 26 years old and from Poland, police said.

The passengers were reported to be living in the Peterborough area and to have been on a trip to Alton Towers.

Murray MacGregor, of West Midlands Ambulance Service, said the coach driver, a man from Lincolnshire, was also seriously injured.

Ch Insp John Maddox, from Staffordshire Police, said officers were trying to establish what caused the crash.

“The bus was coming down a steep hill towards the bridge at the bottom, and from what I can see at the scene, that bus has not managed to go round the bend, and has careered through a wall and down a drop into a garden,” he said.

All people on the coach have been accounted for, he added.

The ambulance service said 44 walking wounded had been taken to Alton Towers for medical treatment.

Two air ambulances, 10 land ambulances, five rapid response vehicles and five fire engines were sent to the scene.

Ian Sloss, a spokesman for the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said the scene was very difficult.

“There’s a bus in a difficult situation which crews have had to secure and obviously the crews are working very hard in difficult circumstances,” he said.

Two of the seriously injured were flown from the scene, one to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham and one to University Hospital North Staffordshire.

Terri Peachey, whose garden the coach crashed into, said she heard a sound “like thunder” when the accident happened and found injured people “bleeding”, screaming and “laying on the floor crying” in her garden.

Proposals have been made for alternative routes, but nothing’s ever been built
David Hughes

“It all happened so quickly,” she said, adding that the coach landed meters from her house.

Bradley Ford, who lives at the nearby Alton Bridge Hotel, told he had helped with casualties.

He said: “I heard this massive crash, rumble, of either crunching metal or what sounded to me initially as a thunderstorm as it was heavily raining before.

Walking wounded

“Then after that we heard shouts and screams so we obviously put it down to a crash.

“When I got to the scene there was a bus overturned, it looked like it had ploughed into a car and then down a neighbor’s driveway into the garden.

“It must have dropped about 20ft (6m). It was on a slope, it’s diagonal, not head-first.”

He added: “There were people climbing out of the fire exits on the bus. There were many walking wounded, all being seen to by the ambulance staff.”

Emergency services near the scene [James Hughes]

It is believed the bus was carrying foreign workers

The collision happened on Station Road, between Alton and the theme park, which is about one mile away.

Margaret Grice, who lives near the scene, said some of the injured banged on her front door.

She said: “I went to the front door and there was… there was about 12 to 15 people, all crying hysterically, blood running down their faces and their arms and… they couldn’t speak English but they were able to say “accident, accident” so at that point I then rang 999.”

Martin Bredda, who lives close to the scene of the crash, described the road as “an accident waiting to happen”.

“It’s a narrow country road. It’s mayhem, absolute mayhem. We had a torrential downpour of rain just before it happened.

“I was in the local pub when someone came in screaming for blankets and sheets.

“We all went to help but the area had been cordoned off by police.”

The staff canteen at the theme park has been set aside to provide shelter and refreshments.

The park sent a minibus to the scene to collect anyone who had been released by the ambulance crews, a spokeswoman said.

The bus was not connected to Alton Towers, she added.


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August 9, 2008

US tourist dies in Beijing attack

US tourist dies in Beijing attack

Police and foreign officials at the Drum Tower in Beijing, China

Police were soon at the scene of the crime

A US tourist has been stabbed to death by a Chinese man in central Beijing, officials have said.

A second tourist was badly hurt in the attack at the Drum Tower monument. The pair are relatives of a US Olympic volleyball team coach.

The assailant then committed suicide by jumping from the 13th Century landmark, officials say. The motive is not known.

The BBC’s Quentin Somerville says murders, especially targeting foreigners, are very rare in China.

The attack happened despite high security across the capital on the first full day of Olympic competition, with more than 150,000 police and other personnel on patrol.

Officials named the Chinese man as 47-year-old Tang Yongming, from the eastern town of Hangzhou, but said they had no idea what had motivated his attack or suicide.

“While at the Drum Tower in central Beijing, the two family members were stabbed during an attack by what local law enforcement authorities have indicated was a lone assailant,” the International Olympic Committee said in a statement.

Reports say the tourists’ guide was also hurt.

On the scene

The attack happened at the popular tourist attraction some three miles (5km) from the main Olympics site, at around midday local time.

An estimated 450,000 foreign tourists are expected to be in Beijing for the Games, which opened with a lavish ceremony on Friday evening.

The attack happened the day before US President George W Bush – in Beijing to attend the Games – is due to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao.

A US embassy spokesman said he was aware of the reports of the attack.

“I can tell you that we are working with the family and the Chinese authorities as we speak,” Richard Buangan told AFP news agency.

US embassy officials have been despatched to the hospital where the two injured attack survivors have been sent.

August 5, 2008

Van Nistelrooy quits Dutch set-up

Real Madrid’s Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy has announced his retirement from international football.

“After studying the schedule of Madrid and the Dutch team I realised playing for both would mean too tough a load for me,” said the 32-year-old.

Van Nistelrooy won the first of his 64 caps in 1998 and is the team’s third highest all-time scorer with 33 goals.

He missed Euro 2000 through injury but played and scored at Euro 2004 and 2008 and also the 2006 World Cup.

His decision came as a surprise to new national team coach Bert van Marwijk, who succeeded Marco van Basten as national team coach on 1 July.

“I had a comprehensive conversation with Ruud and I can do nothing else but respect his decision,” said van Marwijk.

“I regret it that I can’t use his quality and experience when I compose my squad but I wish him all the best at Real Madrid.”

Van Nistelrooy made his name at PSV Eindhoven, where he suffered a serious knee injury, before moving to Manchester United for a then- British record fee of £19m in 2001.

He had five successful years at Old Trafford before moving to Madrid in July 2006 for £10.2m.

Pietersen named England captain

Kevin Pietersen has succeeded Michael Vaughan as England cricket captain.

Courtesy BBC

Following Vaughan’s shock resignation on Sunday, the 28-year-old’s appointment was confirmed by national selector Geoff Miller at Lord’s.

Pietersen will captain both the Test and one-day sides and will lead England in the final Test against South Africa at The Oval on Thursday.

He said: “I’m very thrilled and excited to have been given the opportunity to captain England.”

The South Africa-born batsman, who becomes England’s 74th Test captain, had been widely tipped to take over from Vaughan and one-day captain Paul Collingwood, who also stood down on Sunday following England’s Test series defeat to South Africa.

Pietersen, who has played 40 Tests for England and burst onto the international stage in the famous Ashes win over Australia in 2005, added: “It’s a huge honour and a terrific challenge for me at this stage of my international career.

“I have learned a great deal about leadership from playing under both Michael and Paul and fully appreciate the level of responsibility that comes with the job of captaining your country.

“My immediate priority will be this week’s fourth npower Test and I will be devoting all my energies to ensuring that the team are properly prepared and play to their full potential, starting on Thursday.”

Pietersen has captained England before, in the recent final one-day match against New Zealand, which England lost.

Miller, together with selectors Ashley Giles and James Whittaker and England coach Peter Moores, sat down on Sunday to decide on Vaughan’s successor.

Other potential captains whose names were in the frame were Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and Kent skipper Rob Key.

Miller said: “In choosing a new captain, we were keen to identify a player who could lead the team in all three forms of cricket and bring fresh enthusiasm and ideas to the role of captain.

“Kevin is a world-class player who will command the respect of the dressing room and I am sure he will be looking to lead from the front and work closely with both the players and the coaching staff to bring England success in the future.”

With Vaughan deciding not to play in the final Test, England have made one change to the squad with Essex’s Ravi Bopara replacing him.

England also announced the squad for five one-day internationals with all-rounder Andrew Flintoff returning in place of Hampshire’s Dimitri Mascarenhas.

Sussex wicketkeeper-batsman Matt Prior has earned a recall as a replacement for Tim Ambrose while uncapped Nottinghamshire all-rounder Samit Patel is included for the first time.

Pietersen started his tenure as England captain praising his predecessor Vaughan.

“What a great man he was as a skipper – They are huge boots to fill and I’ll try to give it the best possible go I can,” said the new captain.

“He was a great leader, he brought me into the side and I always tried to the best I could for a great man.”

Pietersen said he would look to the senior players for advice but wanted to stamp his own captaincy style on the national team and he did not believe his own form would suffer because of the extra burden.

“I will always respect what has happened in the past and I will always respect what Michael did and what my predecessors did,” he said.

“I will always look for advice because I’m new in this job and I’ve had calls and messages from the senior players in the squad.

“Once you have the support of the lads around you, you can’t ask for any more.

“But I’ll have my own ways and it’s very exciting. It’s a brand new test and a bright new challenge for me.”

There have been suggestions Pietersen has had a strained relationship with coach Moores but he insisted they would have no trouble working as a team.

“I don’t think I would be sitting here today if I wasn’t 100% confident that everything is going to be perfectly fine,” said Pietersen.

“Yesterday I sat down with Peter and we had a really good discussion on how we want to take this team forward.

“My position as a player to becoming captain is now totally different and we need to unite and get onto the same hymn sheet and we need to get this team going forward.”

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said that once the selectors had decided to appoint one captain for all forms of the international game, Pietersen was the logical choice.

“He was the only real candidate once the selectors decided there was only going to be one captain – that was the big decision,” said Agnew.

“From what I’m hearing (Kent captain) Rob Key was in second place, if you like. I’m not saying it was a close contest between Pietersen and Key at all, I don’t think it was.

“But because they wanted that starting point of a unified captain, Key was higher up the pecking order, I think, even than Andrew Strauss.”

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