Tunnel fire families seek damages in US

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The Independent Online

Relatives of victims in the world's worst funicular railway disaster launched a lawsuit in America yesterday, accusing the train manufacturer of negligence.

Relatives of victims in the world's worst funicular railway disaster launched a lawsuit in America yesterday, accusing the train manufacturer of negligence.

With little or no compensation forthcoming seven months after 155 people died in a tunnel fire at the Austrian ski resort of Kaprun, the operators are facing a spate of lawsuits abroad. The latest target is the American subsidiary of the Italian firm Leitner, manufacturer of the supposedly fireproof carriages. Three American families involved in the disaster accuse the company of "recklessness" in allowing a "defective" train to enter the tunnel.

This is the second lawsuit brought by relatives in America after failing to press their case in Austria. Earlier this month, lawyers representing 15 victims from four different countries started a suit in New York, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation.

Austrian investigators have established that the blaze was probably caused by a defect on the train, and passengers had virtually no chance of escape because emergency equipment on board was inadequate. Lawyers for the victims' families complain that the Austrian authorities have not done enough to prevent a similar accident happening again.

Some of the families are outraged by the way the victims' were treated by the authorities in Austria. According to the lawyers, the remains of those who could not be identified were buried in a paupers' graveyard.

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