Greeks gather to mourn the death of a train accident

ATHENS (Reuters) – Students and railway workers prepared to rally in Athens on Sunday in the latest expression of grief and anger over Greece’s worst rail disaster, which killed at least 57 people.
Relatives and loved ones of those killed in last Tuesday’s devastating train crash were also due to gather for a memorial outside Larissa train station in central Greece, near the crash site, on Sunday .
The station master involved in the disaster was due to appear in court on Sunday, a hearing postponed from the day before, where he could face negligent homicide charges.
Hellenic trainthe rail company which has become the focus of some of the anger expressed over the crash, issued a statement late Saturday defending its actions.
Hundreds of people protested outside their headquarters in Athens last week, and a legal source said investigators were considering the possibility of bringing charges against senior members of the company.
Over the past few days, railway union officials have insisted they have warned the company about safety issues on the line. Tough questions are also being asked of the government over its failure to pursue rail safety reforms.
Protests and vigils across Greece expressed a combination of grief and anger over the disaster, which happened when a passenger train and a freight train collided.
Sunday morning’s protest in Athens will take place in the capital’s Syntagma Square, next to parliament, already the scene of clashes between police and angry protesters on Friday night.
Marches and candlelight ceremonies were held in memory of the crash victims, many of them students returning from a weekend away.
“What happened was not an accident, it was a crime,” said one protester, Sophia Hatzopoulou, 23, a philosophy student in Thessaloniki.
“We cannot watch all of this happen and remain indifferent.”
At least nine young people who were studying at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki were among those killed on the passenger train.
The station master of Larissa, in central Greece, whose identity has not been made public, has admitted responsibility for the accident, which occurred after the two trains traveled the same track for several kilometers.
The 59-year-old, if charged with negligent homicide, faces life in prison if convicted.
But his lawyer Stefanos Pantzartsidis insisted on Saturday: “In the case, there are important new elements which must be examined.”
Details emerged in the Greek media of the station master’s relative inexperience in the job and being left unattended over a busy holiday weekend.
“These are particularly difficult days for the country and for our business,” Hellenic Train said in a statement on Saturday evening, noting that it had lost nine of its own employees in the accident.
Its staff were quick to get to the scene of the disaster and have been working closely with rescue teams and authorities ever since, the company added.
Kostas Genidounias, the head of the train drivers’ union OSE, said he had already warned the authorities about safety breaches on the line where the accident happened.
And union leaders at Hellenic Train sounded the alarm just three weeks ago.
“We’re not going to wait for the accident to happen to see those responsible shed crocodile tears,” they said at the time.


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