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Investigators looking at possible signaling error in deadly German train crash

By Ed Adamczyk
As train cars are removed, a makeshift memorial notes the spot two trains crashed head-on Tuesday near Munich, Germany, killing ten people and injuring hundreds. Photo by Bavarian State Government.
As train cars are removed, a makeshift memorial notes the spot two trains crashed head-on Tuesday near Munich, Germany, killing ten people and injuring hundreds. Photo by Bavarian State Government.

MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Investigators have dismissed speculation a deadly train crash in Germany was caused by human error and are focusing instead on a possible signaling error.

The two commuter trains crashed head-on Tuesday near Bad Aibling in southern Germany, injuring 100 passengers, 18 seriously. Ten people died in the collision, including both train drivers.

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Attention has turned to an automated brake system, known as PZB, on one of the trains, which sets off an alarm in the driver's compartment as the train approaches a red light indicating the train should stop. The train will automatically slow if the driver does not press a button in response to the alarm.

After the crash, it was questioned whether the PZB system may have manually been shut off or otherwise overridden so the train could make up for lost time.

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A police spokesman said the theory was "pure speculation."

The train line is fitted with an assortment of warnings, alarms and other signals, but neither train slowed as they approached each other on a curve, and neither driver could see the other's train coming.

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The eastbound train was on a single track, four minutes behind schedule and on its way to a double track where it would have passed the westbound train and not collided with it.

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German police have instead focused on a possibly faulty signal controller.

Activities in control room at Bad Aibling are also part of the inquiry, and one of three data recorders aboard the westbound train was analyzed and showed no apparent technical problem or evidence of driver error. A second data recorder has been recovered, while a third was still missing in the wreckage.

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