The crash occurred south of the city of Fulda in Hesse late as the Saturday night ICE train from Hamburg entered the Landrücken tunnel while travelling at a speed of 200 kilometres an hour. It derailed after slamming into a flock of 40 sheep that had somehow wandered onto the tracks.
Two special cranes will attempt to raise the train’s engine on Monday evening, but the salvage operation is expected to take several days. Ten of the train’s 12 cars were thrown clear of the tracks. “You have to be very careful in an operation like this,” said a Deutsche Bahn spokesman.
The wreck is likely to cause delays of around 30 minutes on the rail routes between Hamburg and Fulda as well as Fulda and Munich, according to the spokesman.
Investigators are still trying to determine how the animals could have gotten into the tunnel.
German tabloid Bild on Monday detailed the dramatic moments after the accident when many train passengers didn’t expect to get out alive. “Life raced before my eyes,” 56-year-old Georg Mark told the paper. “I figured it was all over.”
After the train derailed and came to a screeching halt seconds later, some passengers managed to break through windows and get help others get out of the cars. Minutes later railway workers came into the tunnel with flashlights to direct everyone out of the tunnel. But the walk to safety was a grisly one.
“We had to climb over the shredded sheep,” Mark said. “A few were still alive, and they looked at me.”