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Station master in Greece train crash delays court appearance


Athens, Greece — The station master involved in Greece’s deadliest train crash is due to appear before a prosecutor and an investigating judge on Sunday after his deposition was postponed on Saturday.

The 59-year-old man is accused of placing two trains traveling in opposite directions on the same track. At least 57 people died when a passenger train slammed into a freight carrier on Tuesday night in Tempe, 380 kilometers (235 miles) north of Athens.

The government blamed human error and the station master faces multiple charges of negligent homicide and bodily harm, as well as disrupting transport. Days of protests over the perceived lack of safety measures in Greece’s rail network have taken place in the wake of the disaster.

Stephanos Pantzartzidis, the station master’s lawyer, told reporters waiting outside the courthouse in Larissa, central Greece, on Saturday that “very important new evidence has emerged which forces us to request a postponement.” of his client’s testimony.

The lawyer did not elaborate. According to Greek law, the authorities did not release the name of the accused station master.

Also on Saturday, one of three members of a government-appointed panel to investigate and publish a report on the collision resigned after opposition parties and some media rescinded his appointment.

Thanasis Ziliaskopoulos was chief executive of the country’s rail operator from 2010 to 2015 and is currently chairman of the Greek agency in charge of the privatization of public assets.

Funerals for some of those killed in the crash, many of whom were teenagers and in their twenties, were held in northern Greece. The force of the accident and the resulting fire have complicated the task of identifying the victims, which is done through DNA testing of next of kin.

Some families have not yet received the remains of their loved ones. Police said 54 victims had been positively identified.

Rallies protesting the conditions that led to the tragedy continued on Saturday. A peaceful rally in central Athens organized by the youth wing of the Communist Party drew more than a thousand people.

A rally organized by a railway workers’ union is scheduled for Sunday morning, also in Athens. The union, which organizes continuous strikes, has asked members of the public to participate.

The Greek media have published damning accounts of the mismanagement and neglect of infrastructure in the Greek railways.

A former leader of the railway workers’ union, Panayotis Paraskevopoulos, told the Greek newspaper Kathimerini that the signaling system in the area where the accident occurred malfunctioned six years ago and had never been repaired.

Station masters and train drivers communicate by two-way radio and track switches are operated manually on parts of the main railway line between the capital Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki.

The station master, who previously worked as a porter at the Hellenic Railways, or OSE, was moved to a clerical position at the Ministry of Education in 2011 when Greece’s creditors demanded staff cuts in the railroads.

He rejoined the company in June 2022 and was appointed station master at Larissa, a major rail hub, in January after five months of training.

On Friday morning, police searched a rail coordination office in Larissa, removing evidence as part of an ongoing investigation.

The rail and freight operator privatized since, renamed Hellenic Train, now belongs to the Italian Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane.


Kantouris brought from Thessaloniki, Greece

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.