“For them, the TGV is like the Titanic”: justice in the face of the Eckwersheim drama, the worst accident in the history of the TGV

“For them, the TGV is like the Titanic”: justice in the face of the Eckwersheim drama, the worst accident in the history of the TGV

Le déraillement meurtrier d’Eckwersheim, le 14 novembre 2015, le seul dans l’histoire du TGV. L'ALSACE/MAXPPP – JEAN MARC LOOS

Le procès du déraillement tragique du 14 novembre 2015 s’est ouvert lundi à Paris.

Eleven dead, 21 people seriously injured. Since Monday, justice has been looking into the apocalyptic derailment in Eckwersheim (Bas-Rhin).

The trial of this accident which occurred on November 14, 2015 during the tests of the new LGV Est, the most serious in the history of high-speed trains in France, opened in a heavy atmosphere in front of the 31st criminal chamber of the Paris court.

It is based on a big question: could the tragedy have been avoided ?

In an attempt to respond, the SNCF and two of its subsidiaries, Systra (which had sponsored the tests) and SNCF Réseau (which manages the tracks), are being judged for “injuries and involuntary homicides due to clumsiness, imprudence, negligence or breach of an obligation of safety.

"They took our son away from us" 

Three people, all present in the cabin at the time of the tragedy, are also being prosecuted: the TGV driver, an SNCF executive who gave him instructions and a Systra engineer responsible for informing him about the particularities of the route. The two test leaders did not survive.

According to the report from the Accident Investigation Office (BEA), the accident was caused by late braking, the train having approached a curve at the excessive speed of 265 km/h instead of the 176 km/h recommended there.

The last car crashes into a canal

The first car was slowed by the parapet of a bridge, but the others rolled over. The last one ended its course in a canal below. Christine Landais lost her son that day. She simply wishes, like her husband Christian, that those responsible make their mea culpa. "They took our son away from us and we've been living like that ever since. They are 100% responsible", she estimated at the start of the hearing.

"For them, the TGV is like the Titanic: it couldn't derail. From the moment you do not consider the risk, you do not take the precautions that go with it", added, at the microphone of France Bleu, the lawyer Gérard Chemla who represents around fifty civil parties.

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks

The TGV driver's lawyer will plead for his client's release, affirming that he respected his obligations with the information available to him. The three individuals face three years of imprisonment and 45,000 € fine, the three companies a fine of 225,000 €.

This first derailment of a TGV, the flagship of the French railway, and its tragic consequences had been overshadowed in the media by another piece of news: the attacks in Paris, which had occurred the day before. This trial, eagerly awaited by the victims, is scheduled until May 16.

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