Four children have died after a train struck an electric cargo bicycle in which they were travelling near the eastern Dutch town of Oss, local media have reported.
A fifth child and the woman riding the motorised transport bike were critically injured. The ANP news agency said the accident happened at about 8.25am on Thursday on a manned level crossing as the woman was taking the five children, aged between four and 11, from a before-school daycare centre where she worked to local primary schools.
Witnesses told the Brabants Dagblad newspaper that the barriers on the level crossing had been lowered but the front carrier box of the bike had passed underneath it.
Police said there had been a “very serious accident” resulting in “possibly multiple fatalities”.
Roger van Boxtel, the chief executive of Dutch Railways, tweeted: “How terrible, this dramatic accident in Oss. Our thoughts are with the victims, their relatives and friends, the wounded and with the travellers and our colleagues who were there. What grief.”
Two trauma helicopters and multiple ambulances took the victims to hospital, the Brabants Dagblad reported. Local authorities were offering emergency information and psychological support in a neighbourhood centre.
All train traffic on the line was suspended while a team from the national accident investigation unit carried out initial inquiries. A police helicopter was being used to take aerial photographs of the scene to try to understand how the collision could have happened at a manned crossing with a designated cycle lane.
An average of 11 people are killed on Dutch level crossings each year, a figure described as “unacceptable” by the national safety board OVV in a report in July. The board criticised the infrastructure ministry’s lack of focus on the problem.
The report said the Netherlands had more roads crossing railways than any other EU member state. “This is not a good combination,” it said. –Guardian