Serkan Alan / Duvar

The first hearing in the lawsuit about the 2018 Ankara high-speed train crash, in which 10 defendants are on trial for the deaths of nine people, was held at the Ankara 30th Heavy Penal Court on Jan. 13.

Two of the three jailed defendants were released during the first hearing of the lawsuit concerning the Dec. 13, 2018 accident, which occurred when a commercial high-speed train collided with a pilot engine that was testing the rails.

Nine people, three of whom were operators, died and 107 others were injured in the accident. The ten defendants face 10 to 15 year sentences for “causing death or injury to multiple people.”

The next hearing for the case will be held Jan. 24.

The ‘last link in the chain’

Now the only jailed defendant in the case, Osman Yıldırım is thought to have contributed to the crash by neglecting to switch the rails.

Yıldırım offered his condolences and apologized for “being the last link in the chain” that caused the crash.

In his defense, Yıldırım said that he had been working alone in freezing weather.

“My hands were freezing, I’d been cold since 4 or 5 a.m. I switched [the rails] but it must not have locked,” Yıldırım said about the switch that led to the crash.

Adding that neither the heating mechanisms that prevent switches from freezing, nor the snow clearing equipment were present that day, Yıldırım said that the cold and working his shift alone caused his mistake.

“If there had been a control mechanism to check if the switch happened, would the accident have taken place? Was there any signaling? If there had been, would the accident have happened?” asked Yıldırım’s lawyer.

“No, there wasn’t. If there had been [control mechanisms], it would have prevented the accident,” Yıldırım said.

Signaling systems for trains allow operators to determine the route and checkpoints, maintain momentum and check rail availability.

No control mechanisms

Yıldırım reported on the day of the accident to one of the other previously-jailed defendants, Sinan Yavuz, that he had switched the rails. Yavuz then notified the commercial high-speed train that it could proceed.

“I sent the train out as it was supposed to. There is no mechanism of control after you send it out,” Yavuz said.

Traffic controller Emin Ercan Erbey was next in the line of command, allowing the train to proceed after the switch had taken place.

“As soon as I’m told the switch is done, I consider it as having been checked,” Erbey said, adding that there is no way to check the switches on the control panel.

Erbey also noted that the signaling system was reportedly out due to work on the suburban train line.

“All these people wouldn’t have died if there was a signaling system. It’s a crying shame!” cried someone in the audience in the courtroom following Erbey’s statement.

‘The directorate knew the signaling system was out’

Traffic Service Deputy Director Proxy Ergün Tuna noted that the signaling system was out because it was due for a replacement in March.

“The signaling system that was accepted was adopted with missing parts. The General Directorate knew this,” Tuna said.