German prosecutors believe "human error" by a train dispatcher caused a head-on crash that killed 11, the Associated Press has reported.
Prosecutor Wolfgang Giese said Tuesday his office opened a criminal investigation against the 39-year-old dispatcher on suspicion of negligent homicide, bodily harm and interference with rail traffic.
"Had he (the dispatcher) behaved according to the rules, the trains would not have collided," Giese said. He didn't identify the man, who was interviewed by police Monday in the presence of his lawyer.
Investigators believe the dispatcher, whose job involves directing rail traffic and ensuring safety on the tracks, sent a wrong signal to the trains. After noticing his mistake, he tried to alert the drivers using an emergency call but failed to prevent the crash, prosecutors said.
More than 80 were injured after the two trains collided in the the German state of Bavaria earlier this month.
Upper Bavaria South Police said 11 people were dead, while 88 people were injured in the crash, nine seriously, after the two trains crashed head-on near the spa town of Bad Aibling at about 6.40 a.m. local time.
Spokesman Jürgen Thal Meier confirmed to local news site Mangfall24.de that the two train drivers were among those killed in the crash.
"This is the biggest accident we have had in years in this region and we have many emergency doctors, ambulances, and helicopters on the scene," Sonntag said.
The crash happened about 37 miles southeast of Munich. One of the trains was reported to have derailed in the crash and several carriages were overturned, according to local media.
All survivors of the morning crash were rescued from the wreckage by 12 p.m. local time and taken to hospitals for treatment.
Police have rejected an unconfirmed report which suggested an automatic braking system had been switched off to allow one of the trains to make up time. A spokesperson said that theory was "pure speculation," the BBC reported.
"Discard that, we reject that," a spokesperson told local broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk.
German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrint said the two passenger trains were on a curve when they collided and it appeared neither had time to brake.
Dobrint told reporters speeds of up to 60 mph were possible on the stretch where the two trains crashed and since "the site is on a curve, we have to assume that the train drivers had no visual contact and hit each other without braking."
He said the track was fitted with a safety system designed to automatically stop trains to prevent crashes and it's not clear why it didn't function. He said black boxes recovered from the trains should provide more answers once analyzed.