When people commute, they expect a smooth and easy ride. They trust that they’ll make it to their intended destination. No one expects for their ride to be their last ride. Alas, in life, anything can happen. We’ve all heard stories of plane or train crashes. We hear about the mass casualties and that the possibility of survivors may be next to none in a few of these tragedies. Have a look at some of the worst commuter tragedies of all time.
Boeing 747, New Delhi India, 1996
Most crashes that we hear of occur when there is a collision on the ground or at sea. That’s what makes this particular crash may be a rarity when it comes to crashes. On November 12, 1996, An Ilyushin-76 cargo plane happened to be flying in a certain direction. This plane was operated by Air Kazakhstan.
Another plane which was a Boeing 747 was operated via Saudi Arabian Airlines. There was some confusion on the part of the Air Kazakhstan plane and it was told that it was clear to land in New Delhi. The Boeing 747 plane was in the same route, and both planes collided into each other over a village in Haryana, which is close to New Delhi, India. 349 people died as a result of this collision. The investigation of this accident concluded that the pilot of the Air Kazakhstan plane failed to follow ATC instructions.
Boeing 747, Mount Fuji, Japan, 1985
Sometimes faulty equipment or malfunctioning equipment could be the cause of a major crash. In this case, an aft pressure bulkhead was the cause of a Boeing 747 crash that occurred on August 12, 1985.
This Boeing 747 plane was en route to its destination from Itami International Airport to Haneda International Airport in Tokyo. The flight was going according to plan, and then the unexpected happened in the middle of the air. The aft pressure bulkhead which was repaired before the plane took off caused the tail of the plane to be destroyed and an explosion occurred. The result of the explosion: 520 people died, and miraculously, four people survived.
Douglas DC-10, Orly, France, 1974
This has got to be one of the most bizarre accidents in history. On March 3, 1974, a Douglas DC-10 plane made its way from Turkey and was in France when the unexpected happened.
The cargo door of the Douglas DC-10 opened up during the flight. What happened next is beyond comprehension. For some reason or another, the control cables came into play because the cabin floors collapsed. The control cables got damaged and the flight went out of control. The plane crashed in a forest near the city of Senlis. 346 passengers were killed and this disaster became known as the “Ermenonville air disaster.”
Boeing 747, Tenerife, Canary Islands, 1977
This tragedy occurred not in the air, but on the ground. And in some ways, that makes it even more frightening. Usually, we consider being on the runway to be one of the less scary parts of a flight. However, the following accident is considered to be the worst plane accident in the history of aviation.
In 1977, two Boeing 747 planes were on a runway in Tenerife. These two planes collided with each other on the runway. According to the airplane crash statistics, the most fatal accident in the history of commercial aviation was in 1977 when two Boeing 747s, a KLM flight 4805 and a Pan Am flight 1736, collided on a runway at Tenerife Airport. Could it have been this one? The accident occurred because the KLM flight was about to take off without permission. It was a foggy day and the plane crashed into the Pan Am aircraft. 583 people died in this accident.
American Airlines Flight 191, Chicago, Il, May 25, 1979
Here is another commuter accident that is considered to be one of the worst accidents in the history of the United States. American Airlines Flight 191 was preparing for takeoff from Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Shortly after the aircraft lifted off of the runway, there was damage to one of the aircraft’s wings.
The wing became damaged because the engine detached. As the plane was in the air, it all of a sudden took a nosedive and crashed nose first into the ground at a 90-degree angle. The explosion was one huge fireball and the aircraft was engulfed in one it, killing 273 people and also two people who were on the ground.
Flight 163, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, August 19, 1980
On August 19, 1980, a Lockheed L-1011 took off into the air. A little bit after the takeoff, within about five minutes, the plane caught fire. The reason for the fire was unknown, but the people piloting the plane were able to land the plane during an emergency landing.
There was negligence on the part of the pilot on the plane because 301 passengers died and their deaths could have been prevented. The pilot of the plane had the doors closed on the plane the whole time, which meant that the passengers could not evacuate the plane and they were essentially trapped inside the plane and died of smoke inhalation.
Air India, Irish Sea, June 23, 1985
Sometimes a terrorist attack is the primary cause of commuter accidents. The following accident occurred because of a terrorist attack aboard a commuter vehicle.
On June 23, 1985, Sikh-extremists were aboard an Air India 747 Kanishka Flight 182 vehicle. The Air India aircraft left from Montreal-London-Delhi and was flying over the Atlantic Ocean when all of a sudden a hidden bomb aboard the plane exploded. The plane was flying to Bombay (which is now called Mumbai). The crash killed all 329 people who were on board. Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik were accused of putting the bomb on the doomed plane.
Pan Am Flight 103, Scotland, December 21, 1988
Here is yet another doomed passenger flight that was the result of terrorism that occurred on December 21, 1988 aboard Pan Am Flight 103. Pam Am Flight 103 was flying over Lockerbie, which is in Scotland, during a night trip in which the plane was headed to New York’s JFK airport.
The flight never made it because two terrorists planted a bomb on the aircraft. In this tragedy, 259 passengers lost their lives and 11 people who were on the ground lost their lives as well because of the burning debris that fell to the ground. Two Libyan terrorists were responsible for this attack. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was convicted, and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah was acquitted of the crime. In 1992, Pan Am was found guilty because of a lack of security screening.
Airbus A300, Strait of Hormuz, Iran, July 3, 1988
Sometimes the cause of one of these unfortunate crashes is not because of faulty equipment or terrorist attacks, but there are cases in which a nation’s military force is the prime cause of some of these tragedies.
Such was the case of Airbus A300. On July 3, 1988, an Airbus A300 aircraft which was operated by Iran Air was traveling to its destination. The plane was suddenly shot down over the Strait of Hormuz. A US Navy destroyer named Vincennes took the aircraft for a hostile enemy and fired two surface-to-air missiles towards the aircraft and shot it down. All 290 people aboard the plane died. The crew of the US destroyer thought the Airbus A300 was an F-14 Tomcat fighter jet.
Korean Air Lines flight KAL007, Seoul, Korea, September 1, 1983
Here is yet another doomed air flight, this time from the nation of Korea. The cause of this doomed flight was yet again the result of a military vehicle attacking a civilian plane.
On September 1, 1983, flight KAL007 changed its original route and was headed from New York to Seoul, Korea. The passenger jet was suddenly shot down by a Soviet fighter plane. The reason the Soviet plane shot down the 747 is because the plane had invaded Soviet airspace in the North Pacific. The Russians thought the plane was a US military spy plane. 269 people lost their lives in this incident.
Queen of the Sea, Colombo, Sri Lanka, December 26, 2004
The rest of the list shall focus on train accidents. The following train travel tragedies are among the worst in recorded history. On December 26, 2004, a passenger train by the name of the Queen of the Sea Line was traveling from Colombo to Galle.
During this morning commute, a tsunami wave struck the train, which resulted because of a previous earthquake in the Indian Ocean. The train came to a halt and the local natives climbed to the top of the train to avoid the turbulent waters. Super sized waves pelted the train and around 1,700 people lost their lives in this tragedy. This was the worst accident involving a train to ever be recorded.
Amtrak, Mobile, Alabama, September 22, 1993
The worst commuter tragedy that involved a train in the United States of America occurred on September 22, 1993 in Mobile, Alabama. This Amtrak train accident occurred when a tugboat was blinded by fog.
The tugboat accidentally crashed into a barge at the swing bridge. The bridge collapsed and the bridge ended up being three feet out of alignment because of impact. The track on the bridge appeared to be okay and the track circuit seemed to be fine. As such, they didn’t close the bridge down. Eight minutes after the crash, an Amtrak train that was carrying passengers from Los Angeles to Miami derailed on this bridge. It was traveling 72 mph. The locomotive plunged into the water. 47 people were killed and 103 people were injured.
Khanna Rail Disaster, Awash, Ethiopia, January 14, 1985
The Khanna Rail disaster is without a doubt considered to be the worst commuter disaster on the African continent. On January 14, 1985, a fast-moving train was approaching a bridge. The train was close to the town of Awash, and the conductor was going towards a curving bridge.
The conductor did not slow down. The town of Awash lies on a ravine. Due to the conductor’s speed, the train derailed and the carriages of the train went into the ravine. There were about 1,000 passengers on board the train. 428 were killed and many were injured badly. The conductor of the train was arrested and charged with failing to reduce the speed of the train while approaching a curve.
Torre Del Bierzo Rail Disaster, Torre Del Biezo, Spain, January 3, 1944
On January 3, 1944, some people were traveling to a Christmas fair in Torre Del Bierzo, Spain, and an unforeseen event happened. A mail train happened to runaway, and it went into a tunnel. There was a locomotive ahead of this runaway train. There were three carriages that tried to get out of the way.
Two of the three carriages remained inside of the tunnel. Both of these carriages were struck by the mail train. On the opposite side of the track, a coal train had 27 wagons and was approaching these trains. The driver of the other train tried to warn the coal train but it was too late. There were about 200-500 casualties and a fire burned for two days because of the collision.
Ciurea Rail Disaster, Ciurea, Romania, January 14, 1917
During the time of World War I, there was a passenger train that ended up not being able to stop because the brakes failed on the train. The train was accelerating down a steep bank. There were 26 carriages on the train and there were refugees and also soldiers who were wounded on this train that were fleeing from the German forces.
As the train went down the steep bank, the acceleration increased, although the conductor tried his best to slow the train down. The conductor and other engineers even tried to throw sand into the wheels. The train then switched onto a loop to avoid hitting another train at the bottom of the bank. About 374 people lost their lives in this accident.
Saint Michel-de-Maurienne Derailment, France, December 12, 1917
During the time of World War I, French soldiers were going home by train. They were coming home to enjoy the holidays and Christmas time was fast approaching. While these soldiers were expecting to get some R and R, they did not expect the horror that was to come.
The French soldiers were on board a train that was coupled together with another train because there was a shortage in resources across the country. There were about 1,000 French soldiers on this train and one engine pulled all 19 carriages that the train was attached to. Three of the 19 carriages had brakes on them. As the train went down a valley, the brakes overheated, and numerous fires broke out under some of the carriages. The train derailed and other carriages collided. 425 of the almost 1000 casualties could be identified.
Bihar Train Disaster – India, June 6, 1981
During a rainy and windy day, a passenger train was traveling over a bridge on June 6, 1981. This was at the time of India’s monsoon season. The train had nine cars attached to the engine and there were about 1,000 passengers on board this train.
There were very high winds that were blowing on this particular day. The water level rose higher than expected, and as the conductor of this train was traveling to his destination, a cow was crossing the tracks. The conductor slammed on his brakes very hard, and because the track was wet due to the high waters, the train and its carriages fell into the water. Most of the people drowned and some were swept away. There were about 300 bodies that were never found.
Balvano Train Disaster – Italy, March 2, 1944
The nation of Italy was severely drained due to the fascist government of Mussolini and ravaged by the war in 1944. There were shortages of everything, food, humanity, hope, throughout the land. A black market trade arose because of these shortages.
There were individuals who were up and coming entrepreneurs who use these trains to get to supplier farms. These entrepreneurs were stowaways and there was a coal shortage. People would burn alternative fuels that produce odorless carbon monoxide gas. On March 2, 1944, one of these overloaded locomotives was stalled in a tunnel. There were passengers on this train along with the stowaways. The fumes from the carbon monoxide killed around 500 to 600 people. The survivors of this tragedy were in carriages that were exposed to open air.
Guadalajara Train Disaster – Mexico, January 22, 1915
During the Mexican revolution, the President of Mexico Venustiano Carranza gave orders to have his troops’ families be relocated from Guadalajara. President Carranza had just seized control of Guadalajara.
There were a pretty large amount of people that needed to be sent to Guadalajara. On January 22, 1915, there was a train that was adapted to transport the soldier’s families. There were 20 carriages used for this purpose. The carriages were overloaded with people. The train left from Colima. As it was going on to its destination, the engineer lost control of the train. It crashed into a ravine and sadly, there were about 600 casualties that resulted from this disaster.
Ufa Train Disaster – Russia, June 4th, 1989
The Ufa train disaster is considered to be the absolute worst train related disaster in the history of the Soviet Union, which is now Russia. This disaster happened in the summer on June 4th, 1989. The cause of the accident was a result of a leak in the LPG pipeline. The pipeline released a copious amount of propane gas.
The propane gas seeped into a gully that was between Asha and Ufa. The train engineers encountered a problem and noticed there was pressure dropping. The engineers did not find the source of the leak, but they increased the pressure of the train. Another train passed this particular train. A spark caused the propane gas to create a cloud and a huge explosion that was so gigantic that the explosion could be seen from miles away. Around 570 people died from the explosion.
Chapecoense Disaster In Colombia
The Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense was excited in November 2016 as they headed to play in the international final competition called the Copa Sudamericana. But as their plane passed over Medellín, Colombia, tragedy struck. The plane experienced suspected fuel exhaustion and crashed into a mountain. Of the 77 passengers on board, only six survived.
Three players survived the devastating crash, along with a journalist and two of the plane’s crew. The country of Brazil was plunged into mourning for the team’s loss. A seven-day mourning period was ordered, and many teams offered to loan their players to Chapecoense to cover vacant positions. A memorial service, attended by Brazil’s president and 20,000 fans, took place on December 3, 2016.