Picture Credit: CEN
A train driver has been arrested for hanging two manhole covers from a bridge and driving into them for attention in an incident which sparked fears of a terror attack.
The regional train crashed into the manhole covers in the middle of April near Bad Berleburg, a town in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia as it was empty and being driven to its starting station.
The manhole covers smashed right through the window of the driver’s cabin causing considerable damage.
Police officers immediately considered the possibility of an attack by someone who might have wanted to derail the train and launched a major investigation.
However, they have now arrested the 49-year-old train driver only identified as Thomas C. on suspicion of orchestrating the attack himself.
A police spokesman said that Thomas C. came into the focus of the investigation “in particular due to the evaluation of crime scene traces”.
Investigators spoke of “massive application of his DNA” which could not be explained other than Thomas C. having attached the manhole covers himself.
According to local media, Thomas C.’s DNA was found not only on the manhole covers but also in the nearby town of Hilchenbach where the manhole covers were stolen from.
Incriminating evidence was also reportedly found in Thomas C.’s car.
In an internal report by the state’s Interior Ministry to the state parliament, it was also reported that a special rope to hang up bicycles was found in Thomas C.’s house which has similar knots as those in the ropes used to hang the manhole covers from the bridge.
Investigators are still unsure about the possible motive of the train driver.
A possible motive might be that the train driver was looking for recognition.
He was praised after the attack for his quick, instinctive reaction by jumping to safety just seconds before the impact, which got him out of the crash unharmed.
During interrogations, Thomas C. denied all allegations although he was not able to give a satisfactory answer for why his DNA was found by the investigators.
The prosecutor’s office announced that Thomas C. was later released “due to lack of detention grounds” as he was allowed to remain pending the investigations.
Regional train operator Hessian State Railways (HLB) spoke of “a serious charge that has hit us deeply” when the company learned about Thomas C.’s suspected involvement.
The company said that while he was employed by a temporary employment agency and not by the HLB directly, he had been driving trains for them for a long time.
Thomas C. has not driven a train since the accident as he has been put on sick leave. The HLB announced that they have now put him on leave until further notice.