“It will soon be five years that you have been waiting or dreading this moment, it has arrived,” said the president of the court, Céline Ballerini, at the opening of the hearing. About sixty people were seated in the large courtroom, including families of victims.
The only defendant in this trial, the driver of the school bus, Nadine Oliveira, 53, arrived in a black suit, immediately greeted by a black Labrador, Ouchi, who will assist her throughout the trial, to help her release her speech and manage their emotions.
On December 14, 2017, shortly after 4:00 p.m., the violent collision between a school bus transporting 23 children from Millas college and a regional express train (TER) at a level crossing left six dead and 17 injured, eight of whom were very seriously. In shock, the bus had been cut in two.
For the moment, 123 civil parties have been formed. But others could appear on Monday, according to Olivier Leurent, president of the Marseilles court, which has a specialized center to investigate and judge collective accidents in the South-East of France.
“It is essential, important and vital for us and for everyone” to be present, testified before the hearing Stéphan Mathieu, the father of a teenager who died in the accident.
“We have to face the gaze of the driver, whether she justifies herself on what happened or not, in order to know the truth”, he added, specifying that the most important thing for him was “that she asks us for forgiveness and that she apologizes”.
“Whether she is convicted or not, that’s not the problem,” continued Mr. Mathieu.
The technical expertise carried out during the investigation concludes that the driver, who was used to this route, forced “the closed half-barrier of the said level crossing while a regional express train was arriving”.
For the investigators, “the most probable hypothesis, on the technical level” is indeed “that of a level crossing closed at the time of the accident”, even if the testimonies attesting to the opposite, including those of certain children, “are the majority”.