A German minister has announced that two consecutive errors made by a train dispatcher directly caused a deadly train crash in Bad Aibling. The possibility of technical defects has now been completely ruled out.
A series of unfortunate mistakes by an on-duty train dispatcher are the sole cause of a deadly train collision last month in Bad Aibling, a German official announced on Tuesday.
"It was a particularly tragic chain of two mistakes," Bavarian state Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told the German newspaper "Bild" on Tuesday. A 39-year-old dispatcher cleared a single-track line in Upper Bavaria simultaneously for two trains on February 9.
The dispatcher then made another error which led to the head-on collision of the two trains.
"After the dispatcher realized his first mistake, he tried first to send a warning radio message to both train drivers," explained Herrmann. Unfortunately, possibly due to his distressed state, the dispatcher then "pushed the wrong button."
"The radio message went to dispatchers in the nearby area. They subsequently contacted him. Then, the dispatcher sent a second radio message to the train drivers. This time, he pressed the correct button, but by then it was too late," described the state minister, adding that "if the first radio message would have reached the train drivers, the accident could have probably been prevented."
Prosecutors had previously announced that human error was believed to be the reason behind the crash, and now Herrmann says there is no doubt.
"Technical defects have now been excluded: the trains were technically speaking perfectly fine, including the brakes. The radio network worked, as well as all control functions," the state minister said.
The involuntary manslaughter charges against the responsible dispatcher still stand, according to Herrmann. He could face up to five years in prison.
The head-on train collision killed 11 people, while severely injuring 24 and slightly injuring 61 people. The high intensity of the crash caused the two trains to wedge into one another, making it extremely difficult for rescue workers to clear the site.
The Bad Aibling crash is one of the worst train accidents in German history.
rs/kms (AFP, dpa)