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High-speed train derails in eastern France; 21 injured

PARIS (AP) — One of France’s vaunted high-speed trains derailed Thursday morning on a trip to Paris, injuring 21 people including the driver, officials said.

The driver, who was seriously injured, managed to slam on the emergency brakes and bring the train to a halt. It was the first derailment of a TGV train in nearly 40 years of commercial service.

Regional authorities said 20 other people also suffered injuries, some of them slight. Train operator SNCF said they included the train conductor, who suffered a back injury.

The train, carrying 300 passengers, was traveling from Colmar in eastern France to the capital and was racing along at 270 kph (170 mph) when it jumped the tracks.

The derailment opened a gash on the pointed nose of the sleek train, which stayed upright. Its side was scratched and some windows were cracked.

The SNCF said it was the first time that a commercially operated TGV train has derailed since the service was inaugurated in 1981, between Paris and the southern city of Lyon. TGV stands for “Train à Grande Vitesse,” or high-speed train.

The seriously injured train driver was evacuated by helicopter.

Passengers told French media they felt a bang before the train slowed and stopped.

An investigation will determine whether the train struck an earth bank that collapsed close to the track.