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Train Driver Jailed for Crash That Killed 56 People

December 14, 1992

PARIS (AP) _ The driver of a locomotive that slammed into another train in the Gare de Lyon four years ago, killing 55 people, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter Monday and sentenced to four years in prison.

All but six months of the sentence against Daniel Saulin, 47, were suspended. But unions representing train drivers described it as ″harsh″ and called Saulin a scapegoat for problems in France’s national railway system.

Unions called for 24-hour local strikes in several cities Tuesday and a six-hour strike was declared beginning at midnight Monday to affect the eastern suburbs served by the Gare de Lyon.

The verdict came hours after one of France’s TGV high-speed trains derailed at the station in Macon in southern France, injuring 25 people on the platform. It was the first accident involving a TGV since they went into service a decade ago.

Critics of the capital’s commuter train system contend the fatal accident involving Saulin resulted from overly tight scheduling, lack of adequate station space and railway mismanagement.

The accident, on June 27, 1988, occurred during the evening rush hour.

A chain of unlucky events began when a commuter, Odile Mirroir, pulled the emergency cord when she realized she was on the wrong train. She got off and switched trains.

Saulin took a half-hour to reset the brakes before leaving for the Gare de Lyon, one of the busiest stations in Paris.

There, another driver, Andre Fouquet, was two minutes late to his own engine after giving information to passengers. The crowded train was still at the platform when Saulin’s train crashed into it.

The court ruled Monday that Saulin was principally responsible, taking too much time to reset his equipment and recklessly speeding to make up lost time.

Fouquet also was convicted of involuntary manslaughter but received a two- year suspended sentence. Auguste-Andre Tholence, the station controller, was aquitted on the same charge.

Ms. Mirroir, who turned herself in, was fined the equivalent of $180 for illegally pulling the emergency cord.

The court exonerated the state-run railway, but ordered the company to pay the bulk of civil damages sought by survivors and the families of those killed.

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