BERLIN — Two passenger trains in southern Germany crashed head-on at high speed Tuesday, killing at least 10 people and injuring dozens on a curved section of track that probably hid the oncoming trains from each other until the last moment.
At least two data recorders were recovered amid the tangle of crumpled cars, possibly giving investigators clues to how the trains ended up traveling on the single track in opposite directions.
Transport officials also are looking into possible flaws in an automatic braking system installed on German trains after a 2011 crash, authorities said.
German Transportation Minister Alexander Dobrindt said the trains “must have collided with very high speed” on a section of rail where the speed limit is about 60 mph.
He said each conductor probably did not see the other train until seconds before the crash on the curving stretch of track in Bad Aibling, close to Germany’s southeastern border with Austria, about 40 miles southeast of Munich.
“The one train virtually bored itself head-on into the other and completely tore apart the cabin of the second train,” Dobrindt told reporters near the crash site. It was one of the worst rail accidents in the country since a 2011 crash in east-central Germany left 10 people dead.
On Tuesday, at least 15 people were “very heavily injured,” police spokeswoman Barbara Strassberger said. About 40 were “heavily injured.”
Police placed the death toll at 10 but noted that one person remained missing hours after the crash. Rescue workers had struggled to reach the site, which is in a wooded and remote region.
Meridian, which operated the trains, is part of the Transdev group. German railways operator Deutsche Bahn is responsible for the track.
Deane reported from London. Brian Murphy in Washington contributed to this report.