ATHENS – The furious and grieving father of one of the 57 people killed in a head-on train collision on the Athens-Thessaloniki route said he won’t accept benefits offered families, lashing out at the offer.
Dimitris Aslanidis, who lost his son, told Alpha TV about Hellenic Train’s compensation package totaling 42,000 euros ($44,570) that it was coming from “murderers” and blamed the government and politicians for insensitivity.
“The compensation should be given to the politicians. We want our children back. They cost the Italian Mafiosi with our mafiosi, how much a life costs. Is it possible? That’s how they’re going to be laundered, they think? I don’t want their money for nothing. No one has contacted us. Who’s got the guts?’ he said.
In an apparent reference to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis first blaming “human error” and a stationmaster before waiting five days to apologize, Aslanidis said that, “If the politicians wanted a real apology they could go to the door of 57 and apologize. This is mass murder.”
An investigation is underway after a botched start when one of three members of a panel set up to look into failures to implement safety measures quit in a conflict of interest because he had been head of the railways and cut staff, which rail workers unions warned against.
“The prosecutors must start. If we were in a serious country they would have already handcuffed the entire Transport Ministry. The image of how these guys were burned alive comes to me and I go crazy,” he said.
“And they came up with so-called support measures. Are they paying for it out of their own pockets? Freeze the assets of the ministers of the last 15 years and not take the people’s money. He’s listening to some prosecutor to go and pick them up. I have no intention of talking to the company. I don’t talk to murderers,” he said.
With elections coming before mid-July – the initial date seen as April 9 was pushed back in the wake of the tragedy – the government said the compensation package would include pension and tax benefits, the cancellation of bank debts, and state jobs for families and relatives of victims.
“Human life is beyond price. The least the state is bound by duty to do, under such circumstances, is to relieve and support the relatives of the victims and the injured with humility and respect,” a government statemnt said.
Many of the victims were college students en route to Greece’s second-largest city to go back to university studies after annual carnival celebrations held for the first time in three years after being shut down during the Coronavirus pandemic.
That led the government to also give surviving students on the train carrying 350 people, including those who are children, spouses, partners, siblings or parents of passengers who died or were disabled by over 50 percent the right to transfer to another state university.
They will also have priority for student housing and free meals and the state health system that’s already free for public hospitals will also pay for care of the injured in private facilities too, even abroad if that’s needed.