El Virilla train accident
|Date||March 14, 1926|
|Location||Virilla River Canyon|
|Type of incident||Derailment|
|Cause||overloaded train / excessive speed|
The El Virilla train accident occurred in Costa Rica on March 14, 1926 when an overcrowded train carrying mostly farmers and labourers derailed while crossing a bridge across the Virilla River Canyon, killing 248 and injuring 93.
The train concerned was a Sunday excursion from Alajuela and Heredia to Cartago where most intended to visit the statue of the La Negrita at the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles, which supposedly has great healing powers. The excursion was arranged to raise money for a home for the elderly by the noted Professor Francisco Gomez Alizago, tickets being inscribed "For the benefit of the elderly of Cartago". A six carriage train was arranged for the trip but proved grossly inadequate as the offer proved to be popular and was greatly over subscribed; no limit being placed on the sale of tickets with over a thousand being sold.
At 7 am, three carriages arrived at Alajuela and left 30 minutes later. Further stops were made and three more carriages were added at Heredia. Despite this many people were unable to board the train, and it even missed out a later stop as it was too crowded to allow any more on. At 8:20 the train began to cross the bridge which lay on a left-hand curve. A combination of a poorly fastened rail and the excessive weight of the train caused the last carriage to derail and pulled two further carriages from the track, one of which plunged 190 feet to the river below, killing 248, including Professor Alizago. The rescue work continued into the evening, several trains returning to Alajuela and Heredia with the bodies, which were left at the stations for identification by friends and families. The government declared three days of national mourning; flags flew at half mast; cinemas, bars and other places of entertainment were closed.
Source (in Spanish)
- The Times March 16 1926, page 16: 'Costa Rican Train Disaster'
- http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,729084,00.html LATIN AMERICA: Disasters