Families can see info about Austrian funicular disaster

19th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

The accident, where a funicular train caught fire in a tunnel at Kaprun in the west of Austria on November 11, 2000, claimed the lives of 155 people, mostly Austrians and Germans.

 

Vienna -- A US court has ruled that the families of victims of a fatal Austrian funicular railway disaster be given access to information about the accident so far kept secret, their lawyer said Friday.

Gerhard Podovsovnik said that a court in New York had ordered companies Siemens, Exxon and Westinghouse to hand over information and key expert opinions about the 2000 accident that killed 155 so that families could decide whether to sue those responsible.

Up until now, the companies have kept the information under wraps, but they must now hand over everything to the US court by July 29, Podovsovnik said.

The accident, where a funicular train caught fire in a tunnel at Kaprun in the west of Austria on November 11, 2000, claimed the lives of 155 people, mostly Austrians and Germans.

The information will "prove that so far there has never been a fair trial on the case in Austria", the lawyer said.

The investigation into the accident was reopened last year after new evidence emerged from German company Fakir, which made the fan heaters installed in the train.

One of the fans caught fire while the train was in the tunnel.

According to new submissions to the investigation, equipment of this type should never have been installed in the carriages.

They also claim that traces of lubricating fluid and other exhibits disappeared during the inquiry and evidence put forward at two trials gave a false technical description of the production of, and materials used for, the heating system in question.

In February 2004 after a trial lasting 20 months, a court in Salzburg in the west of the country acquitted 16 people charged over the disaster, to the fury of the families of the victims.

The prosecution appealed against the verdict in eight of the 16 cases but without success.

In 2007 a German court abandoned a case against the manufacturer of the fan heaters for lack of proof.

In June 2007 a US court threw out a civil case against the operator of the funicular, the Austrian government and a number of industrial groups.

A total of 92 Austrians, 37 Germans, ten Japanese, eight Americans, four Slovenes, two Dutch people, a Briton and a Czech were killed in the disaster.

AFP/Expatica

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