NEWS

3 charged with school bus deaths

The two drivers involved in Monday’s crash and one of the truck’s owners were charged yesterday with one criminal offense and two misdemeanors, as the government pressed judicial authorities to expedite the process against the suspects. However, the Lamia prosecutor who charged the three refrained from employing the «premeditated murder with possible malice aforethought» charges wielded over recent years against suspects in high-profile accidents – such as the April 13, 2003 crash in the Vale of Tempe in which 21 schoolchildren died when a lorry hit their bus. Truckdriver Antonis Pardalakis, 60, bus driver Dimitris Peslis, 21, and Maria Sartzetaki, vice president of the Cretan company that owns the truck, were charged with the criminal offense of «breaching the safety of transport with possible malice aforethought, resulting in deaths.» They were also charged with multiple manslaughter and bodily harm, both misdemeanors. Pardalakis was also charged with the driving offenses of exceeding the speed limit, overloading his truck and entering the opposite lane, while Peslis was charged for not having a card in the bus tachograph. All three appeared before a Lamia examining magistrate and were remanded pending further testimony. Police are still seeking Sartzetaki’s husband Eftichios, who is the company chairman and was responsible for loading the truck. Meanwhile, Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras asked Greece’s top prosecutor, Supreme Court prosecutor Dimitris Linos, to order an investigation into the causes of Monday’s accident, and to ensure that the case proceeds speedily and – if brought to court – should get top priority. «In any case, light will be shed on the case and everyone responsible will be held accountable,» Papaligouras said. According to traffic police records, nearly 143,000 truckers were caught for highway code offenses in the first five months of 2004. Linos asked Papaligouras to increase the penalties for people judged liable for particularly serious accidents. The seven victims of the accident were buried yesterday. Education Minister Marietta Giannakou attended the funerals.