Two convicted for German Transrapid deaths

By Time of article published May 23, 2008

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Osnabrueck, Germany - A German court on Friday found two people guilty of manslaughter and causing negligent bodily harm for their role in a high-speed train crash that killed 23 people and injured 11 in 2006.

The deaths occurred when a Transrapid magnetic levitation train smashed into a maintenance vehicle on a stretch of test track in the Emsland district of western Germany in Sept 2006.

Investigators said human error was to blame for the accident.

The former head of the test track, Guenter Steinmetz, was fined 24,000 euros ($37,740) on top of the conviction. The state court in the western city of Osnabrueck also fined his successor Joerg Metzner 20,000 euros.

Both would serve no jail time.

Judge Dieter Temming told the court: "The two defendants share responsibility for the accident. They neglected their duties."

The two had not set an electronic braking system that would have prevented the train from operating while maintenance work was being carried out.

They also did not follow the "two-people-on-duty" guideline.

A third man facing charges, traffic superintendent Guenther Mueller, was unable to take part in the trial and will face court at a later date, prosecutors said.

They said the superintendent was the main suspect because he gave the train the all-clear. Court experts had ruled he was incapable of taking part in the trial because of suicide fears.

The train, which set what was then a speed record of 450 km per hour (280 miles per hour) in 1993, was developed by Transrapid International, a joint venture between German industrial firms Siemens AG and ThyssenKrupp.

The Transrapid test track in Lathen has been shut down since the accident. The operators of the train are seeking a new licence to continue testing.

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