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A Greek train driver was told to ignore a red light before a head-on crash killed 57

Police and emergency crews examine the debris of a crushed wagon on the second day after a train accident in the Tempi Valley near Larissa, Greece, March 2, 2023.
Sakis Mitrolidis
/
AFP via Getty Images
Police and emergency crews examine the debris of a crushed wagon on the second day after a train accident in the Tempi Valley near Larissa, Greece, March 2, 2023.

Greek authorities released a new recording on Thursday that shed light on what may have caused one of the country's worst railway wrecks in history.

In the audio, a station manager appears to instruct a driver to "pass the red signal" before that train collided head-on with another on Tuesday night local time, near the city of Larissa in northern Greece, according to Greek news media.

At least 57 people have died as a result of the crash and 48 remain in the hospital — including seven who are being treated in intensive care units as of Friday morning.

The station master already had been arrested and charged with manslaughter by negligence prior to the recording.

Initially the 59-year-old Hellenic Train employee denied any wrongdoing and blamed the incident on a technical error. But investigators found evidence that the station manager failed to switch the rail line before a passenger train and a freight train wound up heading toward each other on the same tracks. Later, Greek authorities said the station master admitted to mishandling the situation.

What happened

A passenger train carrying more than 350 people was heading from Athens to Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city, on the day of the crash.

Many of the passengers were students returning from Carnival, a three-day festival that precedes the religious season of Lent, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile Greece's public media agency, ERT, reported that the freight train likely carried construction material, such as heavy steel plates.

The trains collided head-on at a combined speed of of 100 mph as the passenger train was exiting a tunnel under a highway in the municipality of Tempe, close to midnight local time.

The country's transport minister, Kostas Karamanlis, resigned the next day, saying that the country's railway was "in a state that does not suit the 21st century," and that his efforts to improve it were "not enough to prevent such an accident."

The crash has sparked demonstrations in the country. Hundreds of people from left-wing groups marched on Wednesday to protest the train deaths, while train workers went on strike on Thursday over the chronic neglect of the country's railways.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.
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