CAIRO (AP) – Egyptian prosecutors said on Sunday that they found gross negligence by railway workers behind a fatal train crash that sparked public outcry across the country. Drugs were also allegedly involved.
The March 26 crash of two passenger trains in Sohag province, about 440 kilometers (270 miles) south of Cairo, was the latest in a series of fatal train accidents in the most populous Arab country. At least 18 people died and 200 others, including children, were injured.
Last month, prosecutors ordered the detention of eight railway workers, including two train drivers, their assistants, the head of traffic control in neighboring Assiut province and three traffic control officers.
The findings, announced Sunday in a detailed statement from the prosecution, allege that a driver and his assistant had disabled the automatic train control (ATC) system before the collision. The ATC system is a mechanism that guides the safety of trains and involves speed control.
Prosecutors also allege that a control tower guard smoked hashish and an assistant to a train conductor used hashish and an opioid pain reliever Tramadol, commonly sold as a street drug in Egypt. The statement did not say whether the drugs had influenced their decision-making at the time of the crash.
Prosecutors said they had not yet completed their investigation into the crash.
Wrecks and train accidents are common in Egypt, where the rail system has a history of poorly maintained equipment and poor management.
Hundreds of train accidents are reported each year. In February 2019, an unmanned locomotive crashed into a barrier inside Cairo’s Ramses main station, causing a huge explosion and fire. This accident prompted the then Minister of Transport to resign.
Egypt’s deadliest train crash occurred in 2002, when more than 300 people were killed after a fire broke out on an overnight train traveling from Cairo to southern Egypt.