It was supposed to be winter fun on the Oberhof luge track, but it came to a fatal end. A four-man guest bob crashed into a double tubular ring in the finish area of the ice channel in the Thuringian winter sports resort on Thursday evening. A 45-year-old man in one of the air-filled rubber rings, so-called ice tubes, did not survive the collision. His 41-year-old passenger in the other tube was hospitalized with serious injuries. What remains is sadness, dismay and the question of how this fatal accident could have happened.
"We are in shock and are deeply dismayed by what has happened," says Hartmut Schubert, chairman of the Thuringian Winter Sports Center Oberhof association. The association, as the operator and owner, immediately and completely suspended the railway operations for the current season. Oberhof's non-party mayor, Thomas Schulz, is visibly struggling for words after the jubilation and celebration at the Biathlon World Championships, which died down just a few days ago: "I can't believe it and I have deep sympathy."
Guest trips have been offered for a long time
Such a tragic accident has never happened in his 17-year tenure, says Schulz, who himself has sat in the ice channel several times in the guest bobsleigh. According to Schulz, these guest trips have been offered since the mid-1990s. "Actually, it's impossible for two companions to be on the train, something fundamentally went wrong," says Schulz. Once it is clarified whether human error or a technical defect is responsible, lessons will be learned.
The police are currently evaluating evidence to find out why the four-man bob and the double tubular ring were on the track at the same time. According to the information, these collided in the outlet area. In addition to a crisis intervention team, an expert was also on site to reconstruct the accident. The investigators also have the video of an eyewitness who filmed the start of the bobsled. According to an employee of the Thuringian winter sports center special purpose association, it can be seen that the traffic light was green when the bobsled started.
The accident happened around 6:40 p.m. Thursday. Around two dozen police, fire brigade, mountain rescue and medical services were deployed. According to a police spokeswoman, the dead and the seriously injured woman were guests from Thuringia. The bob was controlled by an experienced pilot, the association said. According to the ministry, other passengers were Torsten Weil, State Secretary in the Thuringian Ministry of Infrastructure and Agriculture, a ministry employee and an employee of the State Forestry Agency. They suffered minor injuries.
Dismay and sadness in Thuringia
At the end of January, the German lugers celebrated one victory after the other on the approximately 1500 meter long track. According to the association, the facility had been extensively modernized over the past two years at a cost of almost 40 million euros. However, the ice channel is also used for leisure activities. For example, guests can ride in a bobsleigh steered by a professional or ride down the ice chute with tube rings.
Thuringia's Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow (left) reacted to the accident with dismay: "The terrible accident on the Oberhof bobsleigh track took a person's life." He mourns the deceased with the relatives, hopes for a quick recovery for the injured and thanks the helpers who worked tirelessly, he writes on Twitter.