November 2, 2020 | Susan Napier-Sewell

A Whale of a Lifesaver

A train stranded on a whale sculpture, © AP/Press Association Images

It’s very 2020 that a sculpture titled “Saved by the Whale’s Tail” rescued a runaway train. 

Just after midnight in the Netherlands, the driver of a Rotterdam Metro train was heading for the De Akkers metro station in Spijkenissein when the train overshot the buffers . . . and kept going, until it landed on top of a work of art. The driver was the only one aboard and he was uninjured.

An investigation is ongoing to learn how the front carriage rammed through the end of an elevated section of rails, only to be saved by a sculpture of a whales’ tail. In fact. the front train car was left hanging above the water, supported by the sculpture that coincidentally is named “Saved by the Whale’s Tail.”

After word got out about the incident, the locals wanted to a look at the unusual sight but authorities strongly encouraged onlookers to stay away. Authorities were concerned for the high alert and restrictions for the public regarding coronavirus, as well as the safety of everyone in the area. Engineers were onsite to stabilize the train that was 30 feet above the water, as well as to move it in the midst of strong winds.

“A team of experts is investigating how we can make it safe and get it down,” Carly Gorter, a spokeswoman for the local security authority, said.

Late Monday, an authority announced a crane would attempt to remove the train from its perch.

Also on hand at the scene was the designing architect of the sculpture, Maarten Struijs. When interviewed by Dutch broadcaster RTL, Struijs communicated being pleased that the sculpture had saved the driver’s life.

“I’m surprised it’s so strong,” he said. “If plastic has been standing for 20 years, you don’t expect it to hold a metro carriage.”

As engineers and authorities investigate to learn the cause of the accident, they were looking into whether it was human factor, a safety system or mechanical failure, or something else.

AP News reported that, “Authorities launched an investigation into how the train could plough through the barrier at the end of the rail tracks. The driver was being interviewed as part of the probe.”

If you were assigned to investigate this incident, what would you do first?

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