November 16, 2015 / 1:31 PM / 3 years ago

Train driver denies excess speed caused derailment in eastern France

STRASBOURG (Reuters) - A French high-speed train was operating within speed limits when it derailed near the German border on Saturday, killing 11 people and injuring another 42, its driver has told prosecutors.

Workers use cranes to lift a carriage of a test TGV train that derailed and crashed, killing at least ten people on Saturday, in a canal outside Eckwersheim near Strasbourg, eastern France, November 15, 2015. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

Local police officials had initially said that excess speed may have caused the accident, which occurred on a test run of a new high-speed line from Paris to Strasbourg.

At the time of the accident, some 53 passengers were on board the train, including staff from the SNCF railway, their family members and other guests.

Prosecutors described the train driver as “very experienced” during a press conference on Monday.

“He said he had respected the speed indicated on the map of the route,” deputy persecutor Alexandre Chevrier told journalists, adding that the train’s speed was 176 km (109 miles) per hour when the accident happened.

Pictures from a Reuters photographer at the scene of the train accident had showed the locomotive partly submerged in a canal alongside the tracks with other parts lying broken and detached in a field beside the track.

The train derailed when it approached a curve to the right just before the bridge, the prosecutor said. Prosecutors have not ruled out any causes for the accident, but sabotage or an attack were not their main theories, Chevrier added.

Nonetheless, the accident jarred nerves in France, as it came less than a day after gunmen and suicide bombers killed at least 129 people in waves of attacks in Paris.

Reporting by Gilbert Reilhac, writing by Maya Nikolaeva, Editing by Leigh Thomas

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