SPIJKENISSE, Netherlands – A metro train driver in the Netherlands avoided disaster early Monday after the elevated train he was running overran its track but landed on the tail of a whale sculpture at the station.
The incident took place at the De Akkers metro station in Spijkenisse, where a tail of the aptly named sculpture — “Saved by the Whale’s Tail” — prevented the front carriage of the train from plunging 33 feet to the ground, according to The Washington Post.
The driver was able to escape the car unharmed. No one else was on the train at the time of the crash.
The architect who created the sculpture, Maarten Struijs, expressed surprise that the plastic tail was able to hold the train’s weight. Struijs worked for decades for the Rotterdam Municipal Works, designing a number of the agency’s metro stations.
“It has been there for almost 20 years and then you actually expect the plastic to disintegrate a bit, but that is apparently not the case,” Struijs told Dutch broadcaster NOS.
In an interview with Algemeen Dagblad, Struijs said the train sitting on top of the sculpture looked like a work of art itself.
“There are two tails. If the metro had hit that other tail, I think it would have fallen through,” Struijs said. “Of course, it looks poetic, but it is really a stroke of luck that the train is carried by the tail.”
Gary Wolf, an expert on train derailments, told Popular Mechanics that the lack of passengers on the train likely helped to save it from falling.
“If more people had been on the train — roughly 200 pounds per person, times 40 people is a couple more tons — it could have crushed the tail,” Wolf told the magazine.
The carriage was also still attached to the rest of the train, which Wolf said kept it aloft.
“The cars are articulated, meaning they have a physical connection between them, so the second car provided a downward holding force on the other car,” Wolf said. “Otherwise it would have gone straight down rather than extending out horizontally toward the tail. Gravity would have pulled it down immediately into the sculpture.”
Workers using cranes moved the train car to the ground on Tuesday in an operation that lasted all day and into the night, according to The Associated Press. More than two dozen onlookers cheered as the car was safely moved.
The driver was questioned and released, according to Dutch authorities. Investigators are trying to determine what caused the crash.