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Sat Oct 01 12:23:45 SAST 2016

Germany probes cause of deadly train crash

AFP | 10 February, 2016 13:52

German investigators raced to determine whether human error or technical fault was to blame for a train crash that killed 10 people, as police said all bodies had been recovered from the wreckage.

There are "no more missing people", police said in a statement, adding that 17 people were severely injured and 63 others slightly hurt in Tuesday's collision near the southern spa town of Bad Aibling.

Two trains travelling at high speeds crashed head-on on a single track, with one slicing the other apart, ripping a large gash in its side.

Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said the line was fitted with an automatic braking system that should have prevented such accidents and investigators were probing whether the mechanism malfunctioned or whether there had been human error.

Newspaper group RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschand (RND), citing sources close to the investigation, said a signalling station worker had manually deactivated the automatic signalling system to let the first train -- which was running late -- go past.

That action would have also shut off the automatic braking system.

The second train then forged ahead on the same track in the opposite direction, before the first was able to split off where the line divides into two, according to RND.

Police would not confirm the report.

Dobrindt himself had cautioned against any speculation on the causes of the disaster.

"At the moment we will have to wait (for the result of the investigation). Everything else is speculation, and would be unhelpful and inappropriate," he had said on Tuesday.

Stefano, 24, a passenger on one of the trains, told Bild newspaper that the horrific accident began with a sudden "screech, like with an emergency brake".

"Then there was a real crash, it was damn loud. The back of the train was thrust up. The lights went out and I was thrown across half the train.

"I was so scared that I was going to die. Next to me, a man was flung head-on against a window pane, he was around 45 to 50 years old. I saw how he died," recounted Stefano, who was later helped out of the train by fellow passengers.

Salvage workers expect to take at least two days to remove the mangled wreckage from the site, national news agency DPA reported.

The accident is Germany's first fatal train crash since 2012, when three people were killed and 13 injured in a collision between two regional trains in the western city of Offenbach.

The country's deadliest post-war accident happened in 1998, when a high-speed ICE train linking Munich and Hamburg derailed in the northern town of Eschede, killing 101 people and injuring 88.

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