In Germany Dispatcher jailed for fatal train crash

His lawyers said Paul admitted to playing a mobile phone game on duty, even though this was banned by the railway operators.

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German police inspect the site of a train accident near Bad Aibling in February 2016 play

German police inspect the site of a train accident near Bad Aibling in February 2016

(dpa/AFP/File)
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A German court Monday sentenced a rail dispatcher to three-and-a-half-years in prison over a train crash that killed 12 people as he was playing a mobile phone game while on duty.

Michael Paul, 40, had admitted his guilt last month at the start of the trial over the February accident near the southern twn of Bad Aibling, in which two commuter trains collided head-on at high speed.

"The accused is guilty of 12 counts of involuntary manslaughter and 85 counts of negligent bodily harm," presiding judge Erich Fuchs said as he read out the verdict following one of Germany's worst train crashes in decades.

As the trial opened, Paul had his lawyers read out his confession in which he admitted to negligence, but also addressed victims' relatives personally.

"I know that I cannot undo what has happened, even if I wish I could," he told them.

His lawyers said Paul admitted to playing a mobile phone game on duty, even though this was banned by the railway operators.

He ended up setting the wrong train signals, and although he had a chance to prevent the head-on crash through an emergency call placed to the train drivers, he dialled the wrong number, said his lawyer.

The accident was Germany's first fatal train crash since April 2012, when three people were killed and 13 injured in a collision between two regional trains in the western city of Offenbach.

The country's deadliest post-war rail accident happened in 1998 when a high-speed ICE train linking Munich and Hamburg derailed in the northern town of Eschede, killing 101 people and injuring 88.

Authorities said after the Bad Aibling disaster that an investigation had ruled out a technical defect as the cause.

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