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'Human error' caused fatal German train crash, prosecutors say

Published 16/02/2016

The axis sits separated from the carriage at the site of a train accident near Bad Aibling, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016 (Josef Reissner/dpa via AP)
The axis sits separated from the carriage at the site of a train accident near Bad Aibling, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016 (Josef Reissner/dpa via AP)
Aerial view shows firefighters and emergency doctors working at the site of a train accident near Bad Aibling, southern Germany, on February 9, 2016. Two Meridian commuter trains operated by Transdev collided head-on near Bad Aibling, around 60 kilometres (40 miles) southeast of Munich, killing at least eight people and injuring around 100, police said. The cause of the accident was not immediately clear. / AFP / dpa / Peter Kneffel / Germany OUTPETER KNEFFEL/AFP/Getty Images
Rescue forces work at the site of a train accident near Bad Aibling, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Several people where killed after two trains collided head-on. (Josef Reissner/dpa via AP)
Aerial view of rescue forces working at the site of a train accident near Bad Aibling, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Several people were killed when two trains collided head-on. (Peter Kneffel/dpa via AP)
The axis sits separated from the carriage at the site of a train accident near Bad Aibling, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Several people where killed after two trains collided head-on. (Josef Reissner/dpa via AP)
Aerial view shows firefighters and emergency doctors working at the site of a train accident near Bad Aibling, southern Germany, on February 9, 2016. Two Meridian commuter trains operated by Transdev collided head-on near Bad Aibling, around 60 kilometres (40 miles) southeast of Munich, killing at least eight people and injuring around 100, police said. The cause of the accident was not immediately clear. / AFP / dpa / Peter Kneffel / Germany OUTPETER KNEFFEL/AFP/Getty Images
Aerial view shows firefighters and emergency doctors working at the site of a train accident near Bad Aibling, southern Germany, on February 9, 2016. Two Meridian commuter trains operated by Transdev collided head-on near Bad Aibling, around 60 kilometres (40 miles) southeast of Munich, killing at least eight people and injuring around 100, police said. The cause of the accident was not immediately clear. / AFP / dpa / Peter Kneffel / Germany OUTPETER KNEFFEL/AFP/Getty Images
Aerial view shows firefighters and emergency doctors working at the site of a train accident near Bad Aibling, southern Germany, on February 9, 2016. Two Meridian commuter trains operated by Transdev collided head-on near Bad Aibling, around 60 kilometres (40 miles) southeast of Munich, killing at least eight people and injuring around 100, police said. The cause of the accident was not immediately clear. / AFP / dpa / Peter Kneffel / Germany OUTPETER KNEFFEL/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - Firefighters and emergency doctors work at the site of a train accident near Bad Aibling, southern Germany, on February 9, 2016. Two Meridian commuter trains operated by Transdev collided head-on near Bad Aibling, around 60 kilometres (40 miles) southeast of Munich, killing at least eight people and injuring around 100, police said. The cause of the accident was not immediately clear. / AFP / dpa / Peter Kneffel / Germany OUTPETER KNEFFEL/AFP/Getty Images
BAD AIBLING, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 09: Rescue workers stand near the wreckage of two trains that collided head-on several hours before in Bavaria on February 9, 2016 near Bad Aibling, Germany. Authorities say at least four people are dead and over 150 injured in the collision between two trains of the Meridian local commuter train service that occurred at approximately 7 am. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
BAD AIBLING, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 09: Emergency Rescue workers carrying a victim at the wreckage of two trains that collided head-on several hours before in Bavaria on February 9, 2016 near Bad Aibling, Germany. Authorities say at least four people are dead and over 150 injured in the collision between two trains of the Meridian local commuter train service that occurred at approximately 7 am. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
Rescue personnel wait in Bad Aibling, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, after two regional trains crashed killing at least two people. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
One train is said to have derailed following the collision in Bavaria
Officials in Germany believe 'human error' was the cause of a train crash which killed 11 people

Prosecutors believe the head-on train crash in southern Germany last week which killed 11 people was caused by "human error" by the train dispatcher.

Dozens of people were also injured when two commuter trains slammed into each other on a single-line track near Bad Aibling, 40 miles south-east of Munich.

Chief prosecutor Wolfgang Giese says his office has opened a criminal investigation against the 39-year-old dispatcher.

Mr Giese said on Tuesday that according to investigators "had he (the dispatcher) behaved according to the rules, the trains would not have collided."

Mr Giese did not identify the dispatcher, who was interviewed by police on Monday in the presence of his lawyer, but he is being investigated on suspicion of negligent homicide, bodily harm and interference with rail traffic.

If convicted he could face up to five years in prison.

Mr Giese said i nvestigators believe the dispatcher, whose job involves directing rail traffic and ensuring safety on the tracks, sent a wrong signal to the trains. After noticing his mistake, he tried to alert the drivers using an emergency call but failed to prevent the crash, prosecutors said.

The two trains were supposed to pass each other at a station where the track was divided, but instead they crashed head-on on a curve early on February 9.

Mr Giese said a technical failure of the trains or signalling equipment had been ruled out, but investigators plan to reconstruct the accident to test their theory of what happened.

Fellow prosecutor Jurgen Branz said there was no indication the dispatcher was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash.

"What we have at the moment is a terrible error in this particular situation," he said.

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