Millas train-bus crash ‘barrier’ inquiry still ongoing

Images of the scene show the TER train smashed straight through the school bus, but it is not clear if the barriers were lowered

Investigations are still underway to establish the details of the train-bus crash in Millas, in which six people died.

Five days after the event near Perpignan, little consensus has been reached on whether the barriers - which should have stopped any vehicle from accessing the train tracks - were lowered properly, and whether there was any human error at play, reports news source 20 Minutes.

Despite a statement from SNCF alleging that "several witnesses have confirmed that the barriers were lowered, so they [appeared to be] working properly", and the prosecutor of Marseille, Xavier Tarabeux, since saying that the majority of statements have said the barriers were indeed closed, numerous other witness statements - including some from children who were near the site of the crash. and the driver of the bus herself - have suggested that this was not the case.

A gendarmerie reconstruction of the accident was completed yesterday, using another bus on the same crossing, and a drone camera used to capture the events, to help the inquiry further.

Investigations are also focusing on the vantage point and line of sight that the driver of the bus may have had (or not had) ahead of the crash.

No major visual obstacle has been found as yet, but the driver of the bus has been taken into custody for future questioning. There is no suggestion that she has been arrested, but her lawyer has already made it clear that she believed the “barriers were not closed”, according to reports in news source FranceInfo.

Similarly, materials found on the bus and at the scene are to be analysed for further evidence.

Reports say that “traces” of the safety barrier material have been found on the bus, at the right height to suggest that they may have come from the bus crashing through the barriers - disputing the driver’s own account - despite the flashing lights that would have normally accompanied their presence.

Further analysis has yet to draw firm conclusions.

Yet, investigators have concluded that there was no electrical fault or problem with the cabinet that powers the barrier system, suggesting that it should have been working as normal at the time of the crash.

“We must analyse [these traces],” explains Tarabeux. “But it may be difficult to come to conclusions, because with the violence and impact of the crash, the barrier has perhaps been [too] damaged.”

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