The defense of Nadine Oliveira, 53, prosecuted for homicide and involuntary injury, pleaded for release.
Invoking a “simple fault”, the result of the driver’s inattention and recklessness, the prosecutor Michel Sastre ruled out any “fatality” in this “tragedy” judged by the judicial court of Marseille, the only city with Paris to host a center specializing in collective accidents.
“Children’s lives have been taken away, (…) families destroyed”, insisted the representative of the public prosecutor’s office in a measured indictment, recalling that “perpetuity” had already been inflicted on the victims. This collision, on December 14, 2017, at the Millas level crossing, caused the death of six children and injured 17, eight of them seriously.
For three weeks, the testimonies of the adolescent survivors and their families had never ceased to evoke “broken lives”, which tipped over in an instant in horror.
“I was 13 and I became an adult in two minutes. In two minutes, I lost my childhood, my adolescence, my friends,” testified at the start of the trial, a 17-year-old girl who had her leg amputated after the accident.
Many, like 18-year-old Elona, also shared their “huge sense of helplessness and guilt” for still being alive.
A guilt whose expression “did not necessarily come from where it was expected”, regretted the prosecutor on Wednesday: Ms. Oliveira “did not express (this feeling) in an explicit, visible way”, “nor even of doubts”.
– “The result of the routine” –
Hospitalized several times after the accident, in psychiatry, the defendant was then placed under judicial supervision, without going to detention. Again hospitalized in psychiatry, after having collapsed at the bar on September 22, on the fourth day of her trial, she has not reappeared since.
She was therefore still absent during the indictment of the public prosecutor who matched his proposal for a stay of an obligation of care and compensation for the victims. Mr. Sastre also requested the cancellation of his driving licenses (for tourism and passenger transport) as well as his prohibition to retake them for five years.
Noting Ms. Oliveira’s “lack of empathy”, the prosecutor conceded how hard it may have been for the victims: but “I did not see in Ms. Oliveira’s attitude an absolute denial of what been committed”.
Nadine Oliveira, who had never known this level crossing closed, after having used it almost 400 times with her bus since September 2017, has always maintained that the barriers were open on the day of the tragedy.
“We are not in a strategy, a posture”, as the psychiatric experts have shown, accepted the magistrate: Nadine Oliveira “says what her brain considers to be the reality”, so as not to sink completely, “this crossing the closed level crossing is the result of routine”.
“She never questioned herself,” lamented Fabien Bourgeonnier, the father of Loïc, one of the deceased children, to AFP: “On the other hand, what we saw well was her smile when she arrives the first day. (…) She doesn’t feel responsible, it’s her line of defense. But when she hears the children talking, there isn’t a little something that happens in the brain?
In Perpignan, at the Palais des sports, where the trial has been broadcast from the start for the families and relatives of victims, the required sentence appeared to be quite insufficient: “She killed six children. One year per child is not enough. …”, regretted Michaël, 42 years old.
First to plead in defense of Ms. Oliveira, Wednesday afternoon, Me Jean Codognès acknowledged that “this case is complicated” for the president, Céline Ballerini, and her two assessors: “complicated because you have to judge, gauge the suffering immeasurable, (…) and that we cannot conceive of our justice without a judicial response”.
“But I would like to convince you that there can be a judicial response to the release of Nadine Oliveira”, he launched, causing a rumor of indignation in the room.