Bibliografia Ferroviaria Italiana
Articolo tratto da: The Bridgeport Telegram - Bridgeport (Connecticut, U.S.A.), martedì 20 marzo 1951, pagina 28
427 Died in Rail Tunnel
ROME, March 19 - (AP) The Italian government is being sued for one billion lire ($1,500,000) damages by relatives of some 427 persons who died on what is called "death freight train 8017" in 1944.
The story of the disaster was kept almost a secret at the time.
This is what happened:
On March 2, 1944, when the Allied forces were stalled on the Garigliano River line, supplies had to be rushed from southern Italy to Naples. The Allied command ordered the Italian railways to run a special freight train from Naples to a place in Basilicata - in the arch of the Italian boot - to load ammunition and supplies from secret dumps in the mountains.
The train of 47 freight cars and two engines left Naples as "special freight 8017".
The empty cars rolling south were invaded by refugees returning to their homes. By the time they reached Balvano, in southern Basilicata, there were about 600 passengers aboard.
Beyound Balvano, the train entered a series of tunnels. In the third tunnel it stopped, the load being too heavy for the two engines.
During the night fumes from the smoking engines killed scores of those aboard while they slept. The first to die were the seven members ot the train crew.
When the train was unreported after two hours, the station master at Balvano began to worry. An engine was sent to trace it. By this time 427 had died and less then 100 were still alive. Of the dead only 235 were identified. The victims were buried in two common graves near Balvano's railway station and a thick layer of line was spread on the bodies.
Wartime secrecy cancealed the tragedy for some time. Later, the Allied military government ordered an investigation and the blame was put on a cheap kind of Yugoslav coal used to fire the locomotives.
Two years afterwards, Signora Luisa Cozzolino, widow of one of the victims, sued the state railways for damages. Later some 300 people filed charges against the state for "manslaughter due to neglicence". The neglicence, according to the charges, was the use of cheap coal in locomotives which had to pass through so many tunnels.
A court of appeal in Naples will determine the state railways responsibility this month. The railways disclaim responsibility as none of the dead had paid for their passage. They have agreed to pay the claims of the relatives of the train crew.