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Call To Charge Stationmaster With Manslaughter

August 5, 1985

CAHORS, France (AP) _ The prosecutor recommended Monday that manslaughter charges be filed against the station master who was on duty when two trains got onto the same track and collided head-on, judicial sources said.

They said he asked for charges of ″manslaughter and involuntary injury.″ A local train and an express from Paris were involved in the collision Saturday, which killed 35 people and injured 165.

In Paris, the state-owned railroad authority submitted a report on the collision to Transport Minister Paul Quiles.

Magistrate Robert Chelle of Cahors is in charge of judicial investigation of the crash on a single track line at Flaujac in south central France, and must decide whether to agree to charge the station master, Yves Saliens.

Chelle returned from vacation Monday afternoon and took over the case from Judge Christian Thevenot.

Saliens, 37, was the interim stationmaster at the small station of Assier on the Rodez-Brive line when the accident occurred. The French press has reported that witnesses heard him cry out moments before the crash: ″I’m ruined 3/8 It’s a catastrophe 3/8″

Officials questioned Saleins and released him Sunday.

Officials of the Lot region gave the final toll Monday as 35 dead and 165 injured. They said 38 people still were hospitalized, including one youth in very serious condition.

Only 18 bodies, all French, had been identified by Monday evening. Authorities have given no indication that any foreigners were on the train.

The track was cleared and trains resumed using the line Monday afternoon.

The railroad administration, the Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer, said Sunday that a ″human error″ was the most probable cause. Quiles, the transport minister, has said the railroad’s report will be made public.

A Paris university student who boarded the local train at Assier and escaped the crash with minor injuries was quoted as saying her parents were at the station and heard Saliens cry out just before the crash. She was identified only by her first name, Marie-Catherine.

French unions have protested what they say are inadequate measures to insure that two trains do not enter the single track at Flaujac at the same time. A locomotive collided with a freight train on the same line in 1981, killing the driver.

France has 4,040 miles of single track, where safety depends on telephone calls between the station masters of neighboring stations. One station master calls the other to confirm the track is clear before allowing a train to leave.

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