The Santa Teresa trolley car, one of Rio de Janeiro’s postcard attractions, had an accident as it was coming down steep, winding streets on Saturday, August 27. Officials say five people died and 54 were injured.
Among the dead was the trolley car driver. And among the injured, three children and five tourists. Sunday morning, 10 of the injured were still in hospital, most with fractures.
According to Luiz Antonio Cosenza, a member of an Accident Prevention Commission at the state Council of Architects and Engineers (Crea-RJ), the fact that the trolley car was overcrowded, as reported by eyewitnesses, would not have been sufficient reason for the accident.
“The brakes probably failed. Too many passengers may have been a contributing factor to the gravity of the accident, but not enough to cause it. It looks like the brakes did not work. I did not see any marks on the tracks,” declared Cosenza, following an inspection of the location where the accident occurred (Rua Joaquim Murtinho at the Largo do Curvelo).
Cosenza said the problem with the brakes could have been a flaw in the air compression system. “It is well known that maintenance on the Santa Teresa trolley cars is slack. This is something that Crea has complained about for years, make that decades. These trolley cars may be old, but with proper maintenance they are safe,” said Cosenza, adding that his commission would be investigating the accident.
Meanwhile, Sebastião Rodrigues, the president of the company that runs the trolley cars says that maintenance was up to date. After examining the location of the accident, he admitted that there were places in the trolley car that crashed that were wired together instead of screwed together and that the brake was worn.
But he declared he would wait for the result of an official investigation before making comments about the causes of the accident.
Tipsy Anti-drunk Driving Campaigner
In a traffic accident in the metropolitan region of Rio on Thursday night, six people were run over by a car. One of the victims is brain-dead. The driver of the car was Alexandre Felipe Mendes, who, according to eyewitnesses was visibly under the influence of alcohol when he struck the pedestrians.
Mendes is a state deputy secretary for the city and was, until February, a member of the team that ran the state Anti-Drunk-Driving Campaign.
The case is being investigated by the 81st Police Precinct, in Itaipu. According to a police official, Carlos Alexandre Leite Justiniano, the deputy secretary could be charged with homicide.