German train crash: Dispatcher was playing game

Berlin - A German rail dispatcher was playing an online game on his cellphone shortly before two trains he was in charge of collided on a single-track line, killing 11 people, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

The unnamed dispatcher was arrested on suspicion of negligent homicide, prosecutors in the Bavarian town of Traunstein said in a statement.

The two trains were filled with commuters when they collided head-on on February 9 near the town of Bad Aibling, about 60km southeast of Munich. It was one of Germany's worst rail accidents in recent history.

Prosecutors said the man had been actively playing the game on his cellphone for "an extended period of time" until shortly before the crash. Rail dispatcher rules forbid the use of personal cellphones at work.

"Due to the close timing it must be assumed that the accused was distracted from controlling the cross-traffic of the trains," the statement said. This likely led the dispatcher to give the trains the wrong signals and then, once he noticed his error, to fumble the emergency call by pressing the wrong combination of buttons, meaning the train drivers were unable to hear it, prosecutors said.

The man acknowledged during questioning that he had played a game, but denied having been distracted by this, they said.

So far, investigators haven't been able to find any indication of a technical problem that might have caused or contributed to the crash, prosecutors said.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Rand - Dollar
15.73
-0.5%
Rand - Pound
19.78
-0.8%
Rand - Euro
16.80
+0.1%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.15
-0.2%
Rand - Yen
0.12
-0.1%
Gold
1,854.96
-0.6%
Silver
22.03
-0.4%
Palladium
2,014.35
+0.3%
Platinum
950.59
-0.6%
Brent Crude
113.56
+0.1%
Top 40
61,176
0.0%
All Share
67,585
-0.2%
Resource 10
74,448
+0.1%
Industrial 25
72,681
+1.3%
Financial 15
15,434
-2.4%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE