Egypt train crash driver was 'not at the controls': prosecutor

People gather on and around the wreckage of two trains that collided in the Tahta district of Sohag province, some 460 kms south of the Egyptian capital Cairo on March 26
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Neither the driver nor the assistant of an Egyptian train that crashed at speed into another last month were at the controls during the deadly accident, the prosecution service said Sunday.

The prosecutor also alleged that the assistant of the stationary train and a track signalman were under the influence of the powerful painkiller tramadol, while the former had also used cannabis.

At least 20 people died and 199 were injured in the March 26 crash near Sohag in southern Egypt, according to the authorities' latest count.

According to an investigative report cited by the prosecutor on Sunday, the driver and his assistant "were not in the driver's cabin" at the time of the crash, "contrary to their claims".

Video images caught on a surveillance camera show the moving train hitting a stationary train at speed, sending one carriage high into the air, in an immense cloud of dust.

Egypt has suffered several deadly train accidents in recent years.

Egypt's Transport Minister Kamel el-Wazir -- a former general named to the post after a deadly 2019 collision -- had already blamed last month's crash on "human" error.

He has pledged to put in place an automated network by 2024.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has vowed to hold to account those responsible for the crash.

At least eight people, including the driver and his assistant, were arrested shortly after the crash that happened in the village of Samaa Gharb, 460 kilometres (285 miles) south of Cairo.

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