Train wreckage being removed in Germany; answers sought

BAD AIBLING, Germany -- Emergency workers in southern Germany brought in a huge crane Wednesday to start removing the wreckage from a deadly head-on train crash after police said they were no longer looking for another victim.

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Police spokesman Stefan Sonntag said authorities came to the conclusion that no one was unaccounted-for in the crash that killed 10 people and injured dozens after they contacted all hospitals in the rural region in Bavaria.

Authorities are trying to determine why multiple safety measures failed Tuesday morning, allowing two trains to travel on the same single-line track and smash into each other. They are considering possible technical errors, human failure or a combination of the two scenarios. Both Germany's train accident investigation office and local prosecutors are investigating.

The governor of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, visited the crash scene in Bad Aibling, 40 miles (60 kilometres) southeast of Munich. He held a short memorial ceremony with rescue workers, who laid wreaths of white-and-red flowers next to the wrecked trains.

"This is a horrible tragedy for all of Bavaria," Seehofer told reporters Wednesday. "We are praying and hope that the injured will recover."

The governor also visited survivors in a nearby hospital to hear their stories about the fatal accident and thanked the hundreds of emergency workers for their efforts.

Seehofer said he will wait for the results of the investigations to see "which consequences have to be taken to make this kind of tragedy even more unlikely to happen."

At the crash site, about 100 emergency workers were helping with the removal of the wreckage -- a job that the German news agency dpa said would take at least two days.

Police said nine of the 10 dead had been identified and both train drivers were among them. Their names were not released but all were men between 24 and 60 years old. About 17 of the dozens injured were still in serious condition but all are expected to survive, dpa said.

Police spokesman Juergen Thalmeier warned reporters not to jump to conclusions. While the train dispatcher had been interrogated, he said that did not mean he was necessarily under suspicion.

"All possibilities that might have led to this tragedy are being investigated," said Vera Moosmayer, a spokeswoman for the Transport Ministry. "They are looking at the black boxes. They are examining what happened on the tracks. They are speaking to the witnesses and the train dispatchers. They are trying to paint a picture of what might have led to the tragedy."

Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt told the German news channel n-tv that one black box has already been examined and based on this analysis there seems to have been no technical problem, but that investigators have not yet finished their overall evaluation.

Officials said it was not clear how long the train line between Holzkirchen and Rosenheim would be out of commission. Bus services were offered instead.

The two trains were supposed to pass one another at a station where the track was divided. Also, a safety system installed on much of Germany's huge rail network was supposed to automatically brake trains that end up on the same track heading toward each other. Instead, the two trains slammed into one another on a curve.

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn said safety systems on the stretch where the crash occurred had been checked as recently as last week.

A joint memorial service by the Catholic and Lutheran churches is being planned but no specific date has been set yet.

Grieshaber reported from Berlin. Frank Jordans in Berlin also contributed


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