French, German rail firm charged with wrongful deaths

14th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

The charges are in response to a 2002 incident, when fire erupted in a Deutsche Bahn sleeping car on the Paris to Munich service when a steward dropped a plastic bag onto a hotplate under a rack of drying clothes.

Nancy -- French and German rail firms SNCF and Deutsche Bahn have been charged with manslaughter following a fire on a train from Paris to Munich that left 12 passengers dead, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Following a six-year probe, charges will also be laid against a German steward who caused the fire and then accidentally locked the victims into their sleeper carriage while he ran to get help, a French prosecutor said.

A trial is expected to begin late next year or early 2011, he added.

Fire erupted in a Deutsche Bahn sleeping car on the Paris to Munich service on the night of November 5 to 6, 2002, when the steward dropped a plastic bag onto a hotplate under a rack of drying clothes.

Seized by panic, he set off to alert his superior and, in a tragic moment of thoughtlessness, locked the door of the carriage behind him, trapping the sleeping passengers alongside the blaze, the inquiry found.

Twelve of those on board died, while others were injured as they smashed the carriage windows and jumped to safety alongside the tracks, as the train pulled out of the eastern French city of Nancy, according to investigators.

AFP/Expatica

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