German Train Crash: Dispatcher Allegedly Distracted By Phone Game Caused Train Crash And 12 Deaths

The German inquest into the horrific train crash in Bad Aibling, Bavaria, in February this year has found that the dispatcher, distracted by a game on his phone, caused the train crash and the deaths of 12 people that resulted from it. At the time of the tragic train crash, the dispatcher at the helm was playing a game on his smartphone, and — distracted from his duties as rail traffic controller — allowed two commuter trains to career at high speed into each other.

The German crash left 12 people dead and 150 people injured, with non-quantifiable damages in the loss of faith in public transport due to the criminal negligence of the distracted dispatcher amid a series of train crashes in Europe over the last two years.

The Telegraph UK reports that the 39-year-old distracted dispatcher has been arrested not only because his being distracted caused the actual crash in Bavaria, but also over the spate of tragic mistakes on his part which ultimately led to the deadly collision in February.

“He first allowed both trains to access the single-track line, and then when he realised his error, he pushed the wrong button that alerted other controllers. By the time he corrected himself and sent a second signal which went to the right train drivers, it was too late,” reports the Telegraph UK.

With the dispatcher — also known as rail traffic controller — distracted, the trains crashed head on at 60 mph, resulting in a horrific scene of crushed metal and flames from which bodies, belongings, and ruined upholstery spewed onto the cold ground.

The trains crashed head on, resulting in a horrific scene of crushed metal, flames and ruined upholstery spewed onto the cold ground. The inquest has found the dispatcher, distracted by a phone game, caused the train crash and 12 deaths. (Photo by Matthias Schrader/AP)
The trains crashed head on, resulting in a horrific scene of crushed metal, flames and ruined upholstery spewed onto the cold ground. (Photo by Matthias Schrader/AP)

The inquest has found that the dispatcher, distracted by a phone game, caused the train crash and 12 deaths therein, but the dispatcher has not agreed to plead guilty to the charge. According to the Telegraph, the distracted dispatcher has admitted to the public prosecutor that he was playing a phone game, but claimed he was not distracted by it.

“Investigators said the timings of the mobile phone game and the crash pointed to “the accused having been distracted from his management of rail traffic at the junction”, said the Telegraph of the allegations against the dispatcher. “He allegedly turned on his mobile phone, started an online computer game and played for a while up until the point of the incident.”

The dispatcher is unlikely to be absolved of the charges of involuntary manslaughter — also known as negligent homicide — with his duties as an employee of Deutsche Bahn’s infrastructure unit having been clearly neglected. To avoid any dispatcher being distracted, the use of personal electronic devices during work hours is strictly forbidden by the company, whose reputation among European rail service providers is one of the best.

Alexander Dobrindt, German Minister of Transport, arrived at the site where two trains collided head-on only hours after the 7 a.m. crash. The inquest has found that the dispatcher, distracted by phone game, caused the train crash and 12 deaths. (Photo by Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images)
Alexander Dobrindt, German Minister of Transport, arrived at the site where two trains collided head-on only hours after the 7 a.m. crash. (Photo by Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images)

Though denying that he was, in his role as dispatcher, distracted by a phone game which caused the train crash and deaths of 12 people, the German prosecutors have refuted the dispatcher’s claim. NPR reports that the inquest and prosecutors have ruled out any fault being caused by the trains, the rail signals, or control center systems.

“Due to the close timing it must be assumed that the accused [dispatcher] was distracted from controlling the cross-traffic of the trains,” prosecutors told NPR.

The inquest will proceed on the conclusive findings that the dispatcher, distracted by a phone game, caused the train crash and 12 deaths. The distracted dispatcher may face life imprisonment if convicted of negligent homicide in Germany.

[Photo by Matthias Schrader/AP]