Train disaster in Greece: a railway inspector remanded in custody
BET À DAY
A Greek railway inspector was charged and remanded on Friday more than a month after the train disaster that left 57 people dead in central Greece and shocked the country.
This inspector of station masters who were on duty during this accident, was charged with “disturbance of traffic safety” which caused the death of many people and “negligent homicide”, according to the same source.
This railway employee, Dimitris Nikolaou, 63, is the second to be detained in this case. He faces a sentence ranging from ten years in prison to life.
The station master on duty at the time of the accident, Vassilis Samaras, 59, is also in detention. He had admitted responsibility for the head-on collision between a passenger train and a freight convoy in Tempé, near the town of Larissa.
Without any alert being raised, the two trains ran for several kilometers on the same track before colliding head-on causing a fire and the destruction of two locomotives and two wagons of the passenger train.
Among the 57 victims and dozens injured are many young people who were returning to Thessaloniki, a university city, after a long weekend.
The accident took place on the main line that crosses the country connecting Athens and Thessaloniki, a large city in the north of the country.
Two other station masters, on duty on the evening of February 28, were prosecuted and charged for having left their post before the end of their shift, leaving Vassilis Samaras, a less experienced station master, alone, according to experts and the media.
But these two railway workers were released earlier this week after posting 10,000 euros bail, and must report to the police twice a month.
In addition to the responsibilities of the station masters on duty, this rail accident, the worst Greece has ever known, has highlighted the chronic failures of the Greek railways and the delays in the modernization of safety systems.
Since then, a movement of anger and demonstrations has erupted in the country: at the height of the protests on March 8, 65,000 people took to the streets across the country, including more than 40,000 in Athens.
To cries of “assassins”, the demonstrators are now demanding accountability from the conservative government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis but also from previous governments for having neglected “the dysfunctions” of the public body of the railways (OSE) and the public companies hit by full force during the financial crisis of the last decade.
This accident dealt a major blow to the government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in power for four years, and which wants to renew its mandate during the general elections in Greece on May 21.
Having at first blamed the accident “mostly on human error”, Kyriakos Mitsotakis then made his mea culpa and recognized “chronic” failures in the railways.
Historically underdeveloped in Greece, rail transport covers only 2,100 km of track and is managed by the private company Hellenic Train, a subsidiary of the Italian group Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane.
Interrupted for three weeks after the accident, rail traffic partially resumed on March 22, running more slowly than usual, but passenger trains linking Athens and Thessaloniki are still at a standstill. Hellenic Train plans to resume this line gradually from April 3.