Stationmaster Charged With Manslaughter
CAHORS, France (AP) _ The stationmaster on duty when two trains collided in rural south-central France, killing 35 people, has been charged with negligent manslaughter, a judge said today.
Yves Salens, 37, was in charge of the small station at Assier on the Rodez- Brive line on Saturday when a two-car local train collided with a four-car diesel express from Paris.
The crash occurred just outside Flaujac station. Officials said 165 passengers were injured.
Francoise Fajolles, the Cahors investigating magistrate, said this morning she concurs with the charges sought by the public prosecutor’s office.
She said Salens has been charged with ″negligent manslaughter and involuntarily causing injuries.″
″He’s in shock, that’s certain,″ said Ms. Fajolles after she talked with Salens for about 10 minutes. ″He’s beginning to realize the consequences.′ ′
On the advice of his lawyer, she said, Salens exercised the right not to answer authorities’ questions immediately and will be questioned within two weeks.
The manslaughter charge carries a possible prison sentence of three months to two years. A conviction on the charge of involuntary injuries carries a penalty of 15 days to one year in prison. Fines of about $600 to $3,500 could also be levied.
The magistrate said the definition of ″involuntary″ within French criminal law was ″by imprudence, negligence, inattention or failure to observe regulations.″
Operations on the single-track line are controlled by telephone calls between neighboring stationmasters who check to confirm that the line is clear before allowing trains to depart.
French press accounts quoted witnesses as hearing Salens say just before the collision: ″I’m ruined 3/8 It’s a catastrophe 3/8″
The state-run railway administration - Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer - today formally corrected the spelling of Salens’ name, which was previously given as Saliens.
It still wasn’t clear today how the accident occurred. Minister of Transport Paul Quiles said he will make public today a railway administration report on the crash.
Nine of the 35 bodies were still unidentified.