The station master involved in Greece’s worst-ever train disaster is due to appear in court on Sunday to face charges for the crash that killed at least 57 people.
The 59-year-old station master at Larissa, central Greece, has admitted responsibility for the accident, which saw the two trains run along the same track for several kilometers.
He faces charges of negligent homicide which carry life imprisonment if found guilty, but his lawyer has argued that other factors were at play.
“My client has assumed his share of responsibility,” lawyer Stefanos Pantzartzidis said Thursday. “But we must not focus on a tree when there is a forest behind it.”
Station master appointed only 40 days before rail disaster
The country’s public broadcaster ERT reported that the station master had been appointed to the post only 40 days earlier — and after just three months’ training.
A recording of the communication between the train driver and the station master suggested the latter told the driver to continue past a red signal.
“Is Larissa listening?” the driver said referring to the station master, according to the recording.
“It is listening… pass the red signal at the exit until the entrance signal at Neoi Poroi (station),” the station master responded.
“Vasilis, am I good to go?” the train driver responds, to which the train master says “Go, go.”
In a second conversation, the station master can be heard ordering an employee to keep one of the trains on the same track.
“Shall I turn it now?” the employee asks.
“No, no, because 1564 is on this route,” the station master says.
Station masters are hired by OSE, the Greek railway infrastructure operator, while train drivers are hired by Hellenic Train, a subsidiary of Italy’s Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane.
Meanwhile, thousands of students protested on Friday throughout Greece demanding justice for the victims of the train disaster at Tempi.
“Text me when you arrive”, is one of the main slogans written on banners that can be seen in every part of the country – a reference to a text message found on one of the victims’ phones.
From Athens and Larissa to Volos and Patras, young people have taken to the streets offering their own unanswered “whys” concerning the tragedy.