Two men fined over 2006 German train crash that killed 23

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Friday, May 23, 2008

File photo of a Transrapid train near Bremen.
Image: Stahlkocher.

Two men have been fined for their failure to prevent the 2006 Lathen maglev train accident in Germany, which caused 23 deaths and 11 injuries on September 22, 2006.

The maglev train involved slammed into a maintenance vehicle at high speed on a test track after what was described as a "chain of human error" Maglevs float above the rails, kept up and propelled by magnetism. This particular Transrapid sat 1 cm above the rails and featured a rail-hugging design that reduced the risk of derailments.

The state court in Osnabrück fined then track manager Guenter Steinmetz 24,000 euro and his successor Joerg Metzner 20,000 euro. Both men were convicted of 23 counts of manslaughter and 11 counts of causing negligent injury. Prosecutors had sought jail sentences but the men were spared this as the court ruled they had not acted with criminal intent. The men intend to appeal.

The men had failed to install automatic brakes that would have stopped the train while there was a maintenance vehicle on the tracks and of not adhering to the "two-people-on-duty" guideline.

The third defendant, traffic superintendent Guenther Mueller, was unable to face trial due to suicide fears. His prosecution will occur at a later date. He is said to be the most important person facing charges, as he cleared the train to proceed when, in fact, the line was blocked.

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