German court jails rail worker over Bad Aibling disaster

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Monday, December 5, 2016

A court in Bavaria, Germany today jailed rail worker Michael Paul for causing a train collision near Bad Aibling in February. The disaster left twelve dead and over 80 wounded.

Recovery operations in February.
Image: Aisano.

Michael Paul, 40, switched the two trains onto a collision course while distracted by playing the game Dungeon Hunter 5 on his mobile phone. Upon realising his mistake he attempted to avert the accident by contacting drivers directly, but dialled the wrong number. Official investigations ruled out technical faults.

"I know that I cannot undo what has happened, even if I wish I could," Paul told the court through his lawyers when his trial opened in Traunstein last month. The two commuter trains crashed head-on; the deceased were all males aged 24 to 49. Paul, who admitted negligence and expressed "huge guilt", received a three-and-a-half year sentence.

"The accused is guilty of 12 counts of involuntary manslaughter and 85 counts of negligent bodily harm," said presiding judge Erich Fuchs. Paul faced a maximum of five years. Peter Dürr, representing one bereaved family, said sentencing was not his priority. "My mandate is to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again," Dürr said when the trial opened.

Up to February, Germany hadn't had a fatal train crash since 2012; their worst was in 1998.