The station master involved in Greece’s deadliest train crash will appear in court on Sunday accused of placing two trains running in opposite directions on the same track, after his appearance was delayed from Saturday.
At least 57 people died when a passenger train slammed into a freight carrier late Tuesday at Tempe, 235 miles north of Athens.
The government has blamed human error, and the station master, 59, faces charges of negligent homicide and bodily harm, as well as disrupting transportation.
Days of protests against the perceived lack of safety measures in Greece’s rail network have taken place in the wake of the disaster.
Stephanos Pantzartzidis, the station master’s lawyer, told reporters waiting outside the court on Saturday in the central Greek city of Larissa that ‘very important new evidence emerged that force us to request a postponement’ in his client’s deposition, or giving of sworn evidence.
Tuesday’s rail crash was the deadliest on record in Greece, killing at least 57 people of whom 54 have been identified
Workers supported by a crane try to remove debris from the rail lines after the collision in Tempe, north of Athens
Authorities have not released the accused station master’s name.
Funerals for some of the people killed in the crash, many of them in their teens and 20s, took place in northern Greece.
The force of the crash and a resulting fire complicated the task of identifying the victims, which is being done through next-of-kin DNA testing.
Some families have yet to receive the remains of their loved ones. Police said 54 people have been positively identified.
Rallies protesting against the conditions that led to the tragedy continued on Saturday.
A peaceful rally in central Athens organized by the Communist Party’s youth wing drew more than a thousand people.
In Athens, many also gathered to mourn the lives lost in the tragedy. They were pictured lighting candles and releasing black balloons.
Also on Saturday, one of the three members of an expert panel named by the government to investigate and issue a report on the collision resigned after opposition parties and some media outlets criticised his appointment.
Thanasis Ziliaskopoulos served as chairman and chief executive of the country’s train operator from 2010 to 2015 and is currently the chairman of the Greek agency in charge of privatising state-owned assets.
A rally organised by a rail workers’ union is scheduled for Sunday, also in Athens.
The union, which is organising rolling labour strikes, has asked members of the public to take part.
People stage a demonstration outside of the Greek Parliament in Athens, Greece on Friday after the crash
Citizens marched in Athens to protest for the deaths of at least 57 people when a passenger train and a cargo train collided
Firefighters and rescuers operate after a collision in Tempe near Larissa city, Greece, Wednesday, March 1, 2023
Debris of trains lie on the rail lines after a collision in Tempe, about 376 kilometres (235 miles) north of Athens, near Larissa city, Greece, Wednesday, March 1, 2023
People hold candles and black balloons in honor of the 57 victims of Greece’s deadliest train crash, during a protest in front of Parliament in Athens, Greece, 3 March 2023
People come together in Greece to mourn the loss of 57 people and demand change in the rail industry
Greek media have published damning accounts of mismanagement and infrastructure neglect in Greece’s railways.
Protestors blame Tuesday’s crash on government underinvestment in the railways, a consequence of austerity between 2010 and 2017, and the train operator.
The violent collision saw carriages thrown off the tracks, crushed and engulfed in flames when a high-speed passenger train with more than 350 people on board hit a freight train head on at speeds thought to be up to 100 miles per hour.
A former head of the railway employees’ union, Panayotis Paraskevopoulos, told Greek newspaper Kathimerini that the signalling system in the area where the accident occurred malfunctioned six years ago and was never repaired.
Station masters and train drivers communicate via two-way radio and track switches are operated manually over parts of the main rail line from the capital Athens to the northern city of Thessaloniki.
The station master, who formerly worked as a porter at the state-owned Hellenic Railways, was transferred to a desk job at the ministry of education in 2011, when Greece’s creditors demanded personnel cuts in railways.
He transferred back to the company in June 2022 and was appointed station master in Larissa, an important railway hub, in January, after five months training.
Fire Service spokesperson Vassilis Varthakoyiannis told media previously that the collision caused fires with temperatures so high, reaching 2,372F (1300C), it was ‘difficult to identify the people who were in it.’
Across the country, flags were flown at half-mast on Friday through a three day official period of national mourning.
At universities, demonstrators also draped the entrances of several universities in black sheets.
White roses were thrown on the tracks of the train station in Larissa, Al Jazeera reported.
Police on Friday searched a rail coordination office in Larissa, removing evidence as part of an ongoing investigation.
The since privatised train and freight operator, renamed Hellenic Train, is now owned by Italy’s Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane.
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