Train disaster in Greece: lawsuits against three other railway employees

Greece rail disaster: lawsuit against three more railway workers


Greek justice on Thursday launched criminal proceedings against others suspected of being responsible for the train disaster as the prime minister, shaken by the anger that is brewing in the country, promised “absolute transparency” in the investigation. 

Nearly nine days after this train collision that killed 57 people, an Orthodox religious ceremony was to be held in Tempé (center), where the accident, in memory of the victims, many of whom were students.

After the station manager of Larissa, the city closest to the scene of the collision, placed in pre-trial detention on Sunday, three other railway employees are now being prosecuted in particular for manslaughter by negligence, according to a judicial source at the AFP.

Two of the three are incriminated for having left their workstations earlier than expected on the evening of February 28 before the head-on collision between a passenger train linking Athens to the second city of the country, Thessaloniki (north), and a convoy of goods to some 350 km north of Athens.

The station manager of Larissa, Vassilis Samaras, found himself alone at the controls that evening when, according to the Greek press, he only had from a few months' experience in this position.

All face sentences ranging from 10 years in prison to life, according to the media.

But besides human error, it was the serious shortcomings in the safety system and the dilapidated state of the railways that were designated to explain this accident on a line that was then very busy due to returns from a long weekend in Greece.

These failures against a backdrop of the decline of public services, of which many Greeks complain, have brought tens of thousands of people to the streets over the past eight days.

“Moving heaven and earth”

At the cry of “Assassins!”, they demand accountability from the leaders accused of negligence. In the processions that filled the streets of the country's major cities on Wednesday, calls for the resignation of the government flourished.

As general elections loom, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tries to answer the wrath of a population that has largely lost confidence in institutions since the financial crisis of 2008-2018.

During a council of ministers, the Conservative promised “absolute transparency” in the investigation in order to “detect flaws” in the transport system.

A promise in the form of an attempt at appeasement while , in recent years, Greek justice has been accused of bias in several high-profile scandals.

The Prime Minister, in power since 2019, also pledged to take “immediate action to improve the problematic situation in rail transport”.

And he vowed to “move heaven and earth” to ensure improvements were made to safety systems on the train lines.

With no alerts raised, both trains traveled several kilometers on the same track before colliding head-on.

The Greeks have since held their leaders to account with a protest movement that culminated on Wednesday when some 65,000 people demonstrated across the countries, including more than 40,000 in Athens.

Some rallies were marked by violent clashes between police and demonstrators.

The head of government, who must face the ballot boxes of here in the summer, is beaten for having been slow to recognize the malfunctions in the rail network, initially attributing this accident to “a tragic human error”.

Thursday he asked for forgiveness for the second time to the families of the victims, assuring that it was not necessary to “hide behind a series of human errors”.

“We are all responsible, we must have the courage to admit it”, continued Mr. Mitsotakis.