RIGA - The Riga Regional Court sentenced the engineer accused of causing a fatal train collision in 2005 to four years imprisonment on Oct. 11.
The defendant, Sergejs Ribacoks, must pay approximately 233,000 lats (317,300 euros) to the victims of the train crash, the court ruled. Four people died during the tragedy, including the engineer's assistant, and 32 were injured.
Ribacoks was driving an electric commuter train when it crashed into an empty Riga-Moscow locomotive near the Central Railway Terminal in Riga on Feb. 2, 2005.
The court found that Ribacoks had violated train operation and safety regulations, as the electric train had been 2.5 minutes ahead of schedule.
What's more, the engineer ignored a stop signal and subsequently crashed into a Riga-Moscow train moving backwards, the court stated.
The prosecution initially demanded a seven-year jail term for Ribacoks.
Prosecutor Jurijs Stepanovs refused to comment on the ruling, saying only that the "judgement was fair and fully legal."
Ribacoks' lawyer, Osvalds Svilans, told journalists that his client would likely file an appeal. "I think that a jail term will not diminish the actual consequences, which also affected the court's judgment," said the defense lawyer.
Svilans said that the accident came down to negligence, and emphasized that he did not believe Ribacoks had fallen asleep before the collision, as was rumored. The lawyer did admit, however, that the engineer might have been overworked or tired. "For some reason he did not stop the train," Svilans said.
The full text of the judgment will be publicized on Oct. 24, and appeals can be filed with the Supreme Court within 10 days.
During the hearing, Ribacoks admitted his guilt on all charges and expressed deep regret over the train crash. The defendant had previously denied his guilt "because he was scared."
Under the Latvian Criminal Law, the punishment for violations of railway transport safety and operation regulations with grave consequences is 3-15 years in jail.