Two fined for German fatal train crash
Two train track managers were convicted Friday of involuntary manslaughter and fined in connection with a 2006 high-speed train crash that killed 23 people.
The court ruled that the two managers failed to take the necessary precautions to protect the test track and trains in the northwestern town of Emsland against human error.
A high-speed magnetic levitation, or maglev, train struck a maintenance vehicle on an elevated stretch of the track on September 22, 2006. The impact sliced open the train, which was traveling at 111 mph. Another 10 people were injured.
The managers were charged with indirectly causing the deaths by not having required that the maintenance vehicle be blocked from the track while a train was on it.
The Osnabrueck state court ruled that Guenter Steinmetz, 67, and Joerg Metzner, 50, were guilty of involuntary manslaughter and causing bodily harm through negligence. But Judge Dieter Temming said the two were not criminals.
"The accident was for them a professional catastrophe," Temming said.
The court imposed fines of $37,800 and $31,500 respectively -- a punishment in line with what prosecutors had sought.
The defense had sought the acquittal of the two men, who denied the accusations. Attorneys for both said they would appeal the verdict.
Prosecutors have said they consider a third man -- the traffic controller at the time -- the chief suspect. However, proceedings against him were dropped because he has received psychological treatment since the accident, and is considered mentally unfit to stand trial.
High-speed maglev trains ride on a cushion of magnetism instead of rails, which eliminates friction and helps make possible speeds of up to 270 mph.
The German train was made by Transrapid International, a joint company of Siemens AG and ThyssenKrupp AG.
Only one commercially operated Transrapid stretch has been built so far -- in Shanghai, linking the Chinese city's financial district with its airport. Efforts to put it into commercial service in Germany have been thwarted by cost concerns.