Audio Reveals Directive for Train Driver to Blow Red Light

'Go, go,' urged stationmaster who's since been arrested after Greek train crash that killed 57
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2023 7:45 AM CST
Audio Reveals Directive for Train Driver to Blow Red Light
On Friday, wreckage lies next to the rail lines after Tuesday's crash, the country's deadliest on record, near Tempe, Greece.   (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

The death toll from Tuesday's train crash in Greece rose to 57 as of Thursday, and Greek rail workers went on strike to protest working conditions and what they say is an outdated rail system. Now, a new development: dispatch audio in which one of the drivers of the passenger train heading from Athens to Thessaloniki can be heard receiving a directive to blow off a red light, per CNN. "Proceed through red traffic light exit until traffic light entry of Neon Poron," a stationmaster based in Larissa can be heard instructing in the recording released Thursday by authorities. The train driver then asks: "Vasilis, am I good to go?" To which the stationmaster replies, "Go, go."

Per local media cited by El Pais, the driver didn't seem taken aback by those instructions, as the signaling system had had problems of late. In a follow-up directive, the same stationmaster can be heard telling a train worker to keep the train on the track it was on instead of turning, as the worker suggested. Per NPR, the 59-year-old stationmaster initially pointed the finger at a technical glitch, but investigators later found he'd neglected to switch a rail line, leading to the passenger train heading straight for a freight train on the same track.

A retired train-driver instructor tells state TV that the stationmaster was trained but not very experienced—or at least not enough for such a central station as the one in Larissa, per El Pais. "They should never have assigned him ... and on his own," says Nikos Tsouridis. Authorities say the stationmaster has since admitted culpability for his mismanagement of the situation. He's been arrested and charged with manslaughter by negligence, and Barron's reports he's set to appear in court on Sunday. (Read more Greece stories.)

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