Germany opens probe against rail staff over deadly crash

German police said Tuesday they had opened an investigation on suspicion of criminally negligent homicide against three railway employees following a train derailment last week that cost five lives.

Police officers stand on the track in Garmisch-Partenkirchen where the train derailed.
Police officers stand on the track in Garmisch-Partenkirchen where the train derailed. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Angelika Warmuth

The Upper Bavaria police department said prosecutors in the state capital of Munich had ordered the criminal probe over the crash of the packed regional train on Friday.

The accident occurred near the Alpine resort Garmisch-Partenkirchen, an area gearing up to host the G7 summit in late June.

The investigation is targeting “three (national railway company) Deutsche Bahn staff members on suspicion of offences including criminally negligent homicide”.

Police provided no further details on the case against the suspects.


Public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) said investigators probing the cause of the accident were focusing on possible technical defects in the undercarriage of some of the cars, as well as the railway itself.

German media reported at the weekend that Deutsche Bahn had planned maintenance work on the route beginning on June 25th. The company declined to comment.

The crash killed four adult women – two Germans and two Ukrainians – as well as a German teenager aged 14.

More than 40 passengers were hurt, one of whom is still in a critical condition, police said.

The accident occurred just after midday on Friday as school holidays were starting in the two southern German regions Baden-Wuerttemberg and Bavaria.

Police said the regional train was “very crowded” with about 140 people on board as a new €9 monthly public transport ticket valid across Germany also boosted demand.

The train had just left Garmisch-Partenkirchen for Munich when the accident took place in the Burgrain district.

From June 26-28th, heads of state and government including US President Joe Biden are due to meet at Schloss Elmau — 11 kilometres (seven miles) from Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

BR quoted Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann as saying there was “no indication” that the accident could have been caused by an attack on the rails by G7 protesters in the run-up to the summit.

“We can’t rule anything out entirely but based on the investigation so far, nothing points in that direction,” he said.

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Bavaria hit by severe snowstorms and gales

The German Weather Service (DWD) issued a severe weather warning in several parts of Bavaria on Thursday as the southern state was struck by heavy snowfall and 100km-per-hour winds.

Bavaria hit by severe snowstorms and gales

The heavy snowfall and high winds, which began on Wednesday, caused multiple accidents and delays on roads overnight in several parts of the state, according to police.

Since the early hours of the morning, there were “considerable traffic obstructions throughout Lower Bavaria due to the weather”, a spokesperson for the police said, adding that emergency services had been called out to around 100 incidents in the region.

“There have already been numerous traffic accidents and traffic disruptions due to the weather. Several vehicles have already had to be rescued from ditches and trees removed from the roadways.”

The extreme weather is expected to continue on Thursday across southern and eastern Germany, with “no end in sight” to the heavy snowfall, according to DWD. 

In districts near the Alps and the Bavarian Forest, gusts of up to 100 kilometres per hour and drifting snow are expected, meteorologists reported. 

In the eastern districts and along the Alps, meanwhile, DWD has forecasted severe snowstorms and thunder. In parts of Franconia, Lower Bavaria and the Upper Palatinate, torrential rain will continue throughout Thursday and potentially lead to flooding. 

On Thursday morning, DWD issued a stage 4 weather warning – the highest possible – for multiple districts in the state. Forecasters warned of icy roads, heavy downpours and thunderstorms throughout the day and into the evening.

Berchtesgadener Land, Rosenheim, Passau and Regensburg were among the 13 districts where warnings of severe storms were issued. 

READ ALSO: IN PHOTOS: Germany hit by sudden snowstorms and temperatures as low as -10C

Drivers were urged to take caution on icy roads and DWD also warned of potential avalanches in mountainous areas where up to 1.5m of fresh snowfall was expected.

The rain and snow is set to die down on Friday, but freezing temperatures could lead to icy and slippery conditions for drivers. 

Central and eastern German states – and parts of the Baltic coast – have also been experiencing turbulent storms in recent days, which meteorologists expect to last into Friday. 

By the weekend, however, the high winds and stormy conditions are expected to have largely died down, with overcast skies, patchy rainfall and highs of around 11C.