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2 Metro workers held: Switch attached with wire blamed for fatal Moscow crash

Published time: July 16, 2014 07:19
Edited time: July 16, 2014 12:02
Officers of the Russian Ministry for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Disaster Relief work near metro train railcar that was derailed between the Park Pobedy (Victory Park) and Slavyansky Boulevard stations. (RIA Novosti)

Officers of the Russian Ministry for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Disaster Relief work near metro train railcar that was derailed between the Park Pobedy (Victory Park) and Slavyansky Boulevard stations. (RIA Novosti)

The derailment in the Moscow Metro which claimed more than 20 lives on Tuesday was likely caused by a faulty railway switch, investigators say. The death toll of the tragedy has now reached 23.

Two people have been detained on suspicion of criminal negligence, resulting in one of the worst incidents in Moscow’s public transit system.

READ: Moscow Metro: Incidents and accidents over 80 years

The switch was added to the railway in May, when construction works commenced on a new branch of the Metro.

Flowers by the Park Pobedy metro station. On July 15, a metro carriage derailed on the strip between the Park Pobedy and Slavyansky Bulvar stations. (RIA Novosti/Vitaliy Belousov)

But instead of properly fixing the crucial element, workers attached it with ordinary wiring, which could not withstand the normal stress, spokesman for the Investigative Committee Vladimir Markin told journalists on Wednesday.

“So far we have the persons who did the job as suspects so far. But the Committee is determined to identify and prosecute everyone related to the tragedy, including contractors and officials, who were supposed to control the compliance of the works to the safety rules of the Moscow Metro,” he said.

The stated cause was backed by an independent mayoral commission investigating the derailment, Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said.

“But all other possibilities will be thoroughly investigated as well,” he added.

Apparently the wire tore under the vibration of the passing trains and the switch flipped sometime before the train came. When it ran over the switch, it derailed and plunged into the wall separating the tunnel from the offshoot.

The two suspects have been identified as Valery Vashkatov, a road worker, and his assistant Yury Gorodov. One of them has confirmed that he failed to fix the switch properly on Monday after finishing work on it, Izvestia newspaper reported, citing a source close to the investigation.

The investigators are yet to decide on whether they would seek the continued detention of the pair or keep them on parole.

The death toll from the Tuesday morning rush hour derailment of a Moscow Metro train climbed to 23 on Wednesday, when one of the victims died in hospital. Of the 129 people taken to hospital in the wake of the incident, 46 remain in a serious condition.

A day of mourning for the victims was announced for Wednesday in the Russian capital.

Three carriages of the train sustained most of the damage. Witnesses said when the train abruptly stopped as it derailed, people fell on each other.

"I flew from the carriage center to its top. Everyone fell on each other. I wasn't hit badly. There were no badly injured people in our carriage. Just a pregnant woman, she was standing, not seated [when the train was moving]. She suffered the most, many people fell on her. She could not stand up, she lay there. Everyone was mostly worried about her," a passenger of the ill-fated train said.

Members of the emergency services carry an injured passenger outside a metro station following an accident on the subway in Moscow July 15, 2014. (Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin)

READ: Emergency button broken, train driver silent:' Survivors re-live Moscow Metro crash

The affected line remains closed as repairs in the tunnel continue. Metro management decided to waive the entrance free on two neighboring stations so that passengers didn’t spend time on paying and could depart as fast as possible. There are also extra buses in Moscow’s streets in an attempt to compensate the loss of the key transport line.