The 2006 Lathen Maglev train accident occurred on 22 September 2006 when a Transrapid magnetic levitation (maglev) train collided with a maintenance vehicle near Lathen, Germany. 23 people were killed, making this the first fatal accident on a maglev train.
The Transrapid 08 was doing trial runs, carrying passengers along a 19.8 mile (31.8 km) test track to demonstrate the maglev technology. The track runs from Lathen, Germany, to Dorpen, Germany, with a loop at each end. The Transrapid 08 was capable of reaching speeds of up to 280 mph (450 km/h) on the test track.
The accident occurred on the morning of 22 September 2006 about 0.6 miles (1 km) away from Lathen at about 09:30 local time.
A maintenance vehicle was checking the track for debris when the Transrapid hit it at about 125 mph (200 km/h). The Transrapid was partially derailed. Both vehicles suffered severe damage. Wreckage was spread over a section of track 437 yards (400 m) long. 23 people were killed and ten were seriously injured. The two men in the maintenance vehicle survived.
Firefighters used turntable ladders and aerial platforms to reach the scene, which was about four meters above the ground. 150 personnel were involved in the rescue.
On 23 May 2008, the state court in Osnabruck fined then track manager Guenter Steinmetz 24,000 euro and his successor, Joerg Metzner, 20,000 euro for their failure to prevent the 2006 Lathen maglev train accident. The men were convicted of 23 counts of manslaughter and 11 counts of causing negligent injury. The men did not receive jail sentences, as the court ruled that they had had no criminal intent.
Steinmetz and Metzner failed to install automatic brakes that could have stopped the train before it hit the maintenance vehicle, and of not adhering to the “two people on duty guideline” that could have prevented the accident.
A third defendant, traffic superintendent Guenther Mueller, who cleared the train to proceed n the blocked line, will be tried at a later date. His trial has been postponed due to suicide fears.