Bavaria, Germany – A German prosecutors said on Tuesday that the deadly train crash in southern Germany that killed 11 and left more than 80 people injured was probably caused by human error on the part of the train dispatcher.

Prosecutor Wolfgang Giese said that his office has opened a criminal investigation against the 39-year-old dispatcher on suspicion of negligent homicide, bodily harm, and interference with rail traffic. He didn’t identify the man by name.

“Our investigation process is about a human error that had catastrophic results”, Wolfgang Giese said at a news conference, as reported by The New York Times. “Had he behaved according to the rules, the trains would not have collided” Giese added referring to the dispatcher.

A deadly train crash in southern Germany killed 11 and left more than 80 people injured. Photo Credit: Peter Kneffle / CNN
A deadly train crash in southern Germany killed 11 and left more than 80 people injured. Photo Credit: Peter Kneffle / CNN

Train crash with catastrophic results

Early on February 9, two commuter trains crashed into each other on a single-line track near Bad Aibling, 40 miles southeast of Munich.

The two trains were supposed to pass each other at a station where the track was divided, but they crashed in a curve. One of the trains was late and the controller reportedly tried to resolve the problem manually. A total of 150 passengers were on board between the two trains.

Authorities said the railway was equipped with an automatic braking system that was introduced in Germany after 10 people died in a similar accident in 2011. This system would have stopped the trains from running on a track where they were not supposed to be, but the German news media have reported that the system had been turned off at the time of the crash.

German media had also reported that a signaling worker had manually deactivated an automatic signaling system to let the first train that was running late go past. That action would have also shut off the braking system.

Man under investigation due to allegedly involuntary manslaughter

Germany’s Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure Alexander Dobrindt said at a press conference last week that both trains contained black boxes which would be analyzed as part of police investigations to establish how the events happened.

A yet unidentified 39-year-old man is being investigated for manslaughter and could face up to five years in jail. The signaling worker, who had allowed two trains from opposite directions to travel on a single track, made an emergency call after realizing his mistake. Prosecutors say they don’t believe he acted deliberately, but they highlighted that his actions had had catastrophic consequences.

The worker, who has several years of experience in the job, had admitted the error on Monday, Giese said, adding that he had not been taken into preventive detention as the action was not deliberate.

The accident is Germany’s first fatal train crash since April 2012 when three people were killed and 13 injured in a collision between two regional trains in the western city of Offenbach.

Source: The New York Times