"Canal de Castilla" (Spain)

Tragic deaths at the Naveros lock on 11/08/2012


Three women and three children died
at the accursed bridge over the Canal of Castile

 Fourteen people have lost their lives at this spot in three accidents since 1973

(News headline on "El País Digital" on 12/08/2012) 

News in "El País digital"
News in "El Diario de Burgos"
News in "El Norte de Castilla"
News inother sources

Why did my daughter Margarita Alonso die by drowning
in the Canal of Castile with another 5 people?


As they did every year, they went to Zarzosa to spend part of their holidays with their families.
It was what they had always done since they were children.
Zarzosa was the village where their parents and grandparents were born.
All of them considered it as "their" village.


The long straight between S. Llorente and Naveros


On the night of 10 August they went to San Llorente de la Vega (12 Km away) to have some fun at the fiesta of S. Lorenzo, the same as they had done in earlier years.


And in the early morning of the 11th, they were all on their way back to Zarzosa in two cars. In the first, a Volkswagen Touran, there were 6 people.



After the straight there is a tight curve to the left which leads to the bridge over the Canal of Castile, concealed by vegetation, now even more abundant. (The photo dates from 2009)         



The tragedy

For reasons unknown, the car came off the road and fell into the water of the Canal where it was submerged with the doors jammed.

The six occupants, 3 young women and 3 children, were trapped inside and they all drowned.

 At the side of the Canal of Castile there was a barrier, for protection? which did not fulfil its task of stopping cars from falling. The barrier bent in half and opened towards the right like a half-open door.



After the accident...

The photo shows the "odd" behaviour of the barrier: it is bent in half and the supporting post at the left end, as can be seen in the photo, is hanging over the water due to the weight of the lump of concrete to which it is attached and which should have secured it to the ground, but did not.



 In the photo, the barrier, although bent and torn away from the ground, shows no visible distortion due to the impact of the car.

 And none of the car’s airbags opened, although they all functioned properly.

These two facts lead to the conclusion that the impact of the car against the barrier was not very violent and that the bent half of the barrier gave way easily because it was not firmly fixed into the ground and came away incredibly easily, sending the car directly towards the bottom of the canal, instead of preventing it from falling.

 It is clear that if the signs, particularly the horizontal signs, had been correct and if there had been transverse noise bars, it is probable that this "going off the road" would not have happened.

 Which turned a simple "going off the road" (one third of all accidents are due to going off the road) into a real tragedy was the fall into the canal, which would not have happened if the protection barrier had been properly designed and fixed into the ground.

 But it wasn’t, in spite of the many deaths in earlier accidents crying out to heaven for a new route for the road or, at least, a properly installed protection.


La Asociación Española de Fabricantes de Sistemas Metálicos de Protección Vial (Spanish Association of Manufacturers of Metal Road Protection Systems) publishes a magazine, available on the Internet, in which number 3 contains a study of the Naveros accident.

I include below some fragments of text and photos from this magazine, with permission from the publishers.

(The underlining in red is mine)


"All the efforts and investments made by the manufacturers (of road protection systems) for the development of new products are useless when these systems are not properly installed on the roads or when the regular maintenance work is not done.

 “An example of this is the fatal accident which happened at Naveros de Pisuerga on 11 August (2012) when six people died after their car fell into lock 13 on the Canal de Castile. This shows, on the one hand, the importance of the existence of metal safety barriers as a passive safety device and, on the other, of their correct installation so that they can properly fulfil their function of minimising as far as possible the damage to cars which go off the road and collide with them.

 “Unfortunately, a total of fourteen people have died in the last 39 years at this same point, as a result of three road accidents, which probably could have been avoided if there had been adequate protection. Also, although it seems incredible, there are other similar bridges in the area without any kind of safety barrier.

The Canal de Castile is one of the most important engineering works of the mid-18th century, crossing the provinces of Palencia, Burgos and Valladolid and, although it is important to preserve the historic heritage, safety must always carry priority.

 “... Given the age of the route (of the road), the simple placing of new barriers may not be sufficient; consideration should be given to redesigning the area, given that the barriers themselves are designed to withstand lateral impacts and not frontal".

 ("Redesigning the area" means "in plain words", changing the route and removing the bend)

 Magazine SIMEPROVI, no. 3, page 20.

The top picture shows the scene of the accident. The car came off the road, carrying before it the metal barrier existing at the point of impact, but, was it properly installed?

 Below is a study of the state of metal safety barrier installed at lock 13 on the Canal of Castile.


"Points 1 and 2 indicate the gaps existing in the first part and the last part of the section of barrier installed. Again, point 3 shows the lack of continuity in the barrier system.

 Clearly, the lack of continuity in the protective barriers, as well as the existence of stretches without any protection, reduces to zero its effectiveness in resisting impact.

 Even supposing that 1, 2 and 3 were dealt with, the barrier without a separator and with a distance of 4 metres between posts would be suitable for a normal N2 level of impact absorption and a working width W5/W6. However, given the discontinuity indicated in point 3, there are in fact two sections of barrier of 8 and 12 metres respectively.

 To ensure adequate performance by the system (in the event that it has been tested), a minimum length should have been installed corresponding to the length of the barrier tested. And this type of impact absorbing system is not suitable for a place of this type. What would happen if a coach were involved? The consequences could be unimaginable.

 The installation of a high performance retaining barrier would, therefore, be needed.

 On another point, fish tail terminals such as that shown at point 5 can have serious consequences in the event of impact, when the barrier rail can be introduced longitudinally into the car which impacts against it. There have been numerous occasions when the consequences of an accident have been fatal due to the existence of this type of terminal, not continuing down to the ground.

 Finally, and by no means the least important, point 6 indicates the old wall which crossed the bridge. It is true that this wall could prevent cars going over if they should come off the road while crossing the bridge, but not before (as was the case of the accident, but with what consequences for the occupants? The severity of impact of a car which unluckily struck this wall would be of type C, an impact which could have serious consequences for the occupants of the car.

 The study carried out clearly shows the dangers of the spot."

Magazine SIMEPROVI,no. 3, page 19.


Who was it who installed, so very badly, that totally ineffective "protection" barrier, 

which failed to meet all the safety standards and played a decisive part 

in the death of my daughter

and the other five victims who were drowned?

Who had (not) taken care of the maintenance and updating of that safety barrier?

Whatever institution or body installed the barrier,

and should have maintained it and updated it,

does it not bear responsibility in the way that the car fell into the canal 

and all the people in the car were drowned?

The  Naveros de Pisuerga tragedy (11-08-21012) (6 dead) 

has many similarities with the Madrid-Arena tragedy (1-11-2012) (5 dead) 

and with the Valencia metro tragedy (3-7-2006) (43 dead).

 In all 3 cases, the actions of the public authorities were lamentable in the installation of preventive measures which would have avoided the accidents. Neither have the politicians and responsible administrative personnel distinguished themselves much in their management following these disasters.

 For example, we insert here a page of links related with the Valencia Metro tragedy. It is truly horrifying to read these documents, especially those regarding the shameful behaviour of the various public authorities after the accident.

 But there is still hope: seven years later, thanks to the television programme "Salvados", they have reopened the legal proceedings which had wrongly been closed.

This third world-type situation at the lock of the Canal of Castile in Naveros is not in any way an isolated case. We could say that it is pretty normal throughout the area of the Canal of Castile and that the situation is even worse for the Canal of Pisuerga, which flows in parallel to the other.

 7 Km up water from Naveros, the route of the road from Zarzosa close to lock 9 on the Canal of Castile (S. Lorenzo) has an attractive route but presents very grave dangers. Here again several people have drowned when their car fell into the water. (See photo below)

 And 3 Km further down, by lock 10 (Pradojo - Castrillo), the route is even more labyrinthine and dangerous.


Two recent photos showing the lamentable condition of road safety
beside the Castile and Pisuerga canals.

You can see the boundless and everlasting idleness affecting the maintenance and safety of these canals, and the bridges and roads which cross them. Just like these two photos, you could take several hundred more. 


Convoy of death

A disturbing picture of the convoy of six hearses on their way to the funeral in Zarzosa, all of them carrying coffins (three of them white).


On their route they passed close to lock 9 of the Canal of Castile (where some years ago the occupants of another car died in a similar accident) and crossed (what remains of) the bridge over the canal.

The solution at these 3 points: locks 13, 9 and 10 (Naveros, S. Lorenzo and Pradojo), does not need to be looked for, as it has already been invented, carried out and tested for several years in the Canal de Castile itself....

...it is the Frómista solution

The "Frómista" solution


View from the bridge where the N-611 road crosses over the Canal of Castile to the south of Frómista (Palencia).

The bridge is built of simple prefabricated beams.


South of the village of Frómista, the N-611 road (old route) crosses the Canal of Castile by a bridge aligned with the road (and not perpendicular to the canal, like the 3 referred to above) and without tight curves at each end of the bridge.

It is several years since this bridge was built in Frómista and since then there has not been a single accident, in spite of its being a road with very heavy traffic.

 For the bridges of Naveros, San Lorenzo and Pradojo the same solution should be applied.

And the beautiful 18th century bridges should be preserved as exclusively pedestrian bridges.

 The safety of people close to the Canal of Castile has to be a priority and all the more so if the idea is to promote the canal as a tourist attraction and continue obtaining subsidies from the European Union.


No more deaths in the Canal of Castile!!

The residents of villages affected by dangerous crossings over the Castile Canal have always known
very clearly what
  needed to be done. And they have tried on several occasions to find a solution for their own account and with their own funds. But they have always come up against the "no authorization" from the Confederación Hidrográfica del Duero

A resident of Castrillo de Riopisuerga told me that, in the 1970s, when he was Mayor, Castrillo Town Council applied to the Confederación Hidrográfica del Duero, manager of the Castile Canal, for authorization to build a straight stretch of road and a new bridge over the Castile Canal (the Frómista solution). The financing of the works would have been dealt with by Castrillo Town Council itself. The Confederación refused the authorization.

In later years, the same Town Council repeated its application 

to the Confederación Hidrográfica del Duero several times,
with the same negative results.

Zarzosa Town Council also took similar steps, but met the same response.

A separate mention is merited by the vicissitudes through which Herrera de Pisuerga Town Council had to pass 30 years ago in order to widen "Los Malecones" bridge over the Castile Canal. 

Every resident of Herrera and the district knows of these (and many others) disasters and misfortunes related with the Confederación Hidrográfica del Duero and “their” Castile Canal.

 One year later...

(August 2013)

The Castile Canal bridges remain without any plan for works
a year after the accident

("El Diario de Burgos" 11/08/2013)

A year after the Castile Canal accident 

(Editorial pages of "El País" 11/08/2013)