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Train dispatcher admits hitting wrong signal in crash trial

Associated Press Associated Press 10/11/2016
FILE - The Feb. 9, 2016 file photo shoes an aerial view of rescue teams at the site where two trains collided head-on near Bad Aibling, Germany. On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016 a train dispatcher is going on trial charged with 12 counts of negligent homicide and 89 counts of causing bodily harm in the collision of the two commuter trains in southern Germany. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, file) © The Associated Press FILE - The Feb. 9, 2016 file photo shoes an aerial view of rescue teams at the site where two trains collided head-on near Bad Aibling, Germany. On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016 a train dispatcher is going on trial charged with 12 counts of negligent homicide and 89 counts of causing bodily harm in the collision of the two commuter trains in southern Germany. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, file)

BERLIN — A German train dispatcher charged with 12 counts of negligent homicide and 89 counts of causing bodily harm in the collision of two commuter trains earlier this year admitted Thursday to hitting the wrong signal buttons, news agency dpa reported.

The dispatcher, identified only as 40-year-old Michael P., in line with German privacy laws, made the confession at the opening of his trial at the regional court in Traunstein, dpa reported.

Michael P. said in a statement to the families of the victims that he knows he is guilty and that while he cannot undo what happened he wanted to tell the families that "in my thoughts I am with you."

Prosecutors have said the dispatcher is suspected of playing a game on his phone shortly before the two trains he was in charge of collided on a single-track line on Feb. 9 near the Bavarian town of Bad Aibling, which is about 60 kilometers (40 miles) southeast of Munich.

The dispatcher is accused of having played the fantasy game "Dungeon Hunter 5" on his smartphone until shortly before the crash, dpa reported. When asked about his online game habits at the trial, the accused didn't answer, dpa reported. Rail dispatcher rules forbid the use of personal cellphones at work.

The two trains were filled with commuters when they collided. It was one of Germany's worst rail accidents in recent history.

The dispatcher has been in custody since April. The sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 5. The accused can be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison.

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