Top Camrail officials resign after report on deadly train crash

Hamadou Sali has resigned as the chairman of Camrail. PHOTO | NDI EUGENE NDI 

Top officials of Cameroon's Camrail have quit office, a fortnight after government said the company was “mainly to blame” for a train crash that killed at least 79 people last October.

The chairman, Hamadou Sali, and the managing director, Didier Vandenbon, a French national, tendered their resignations to the board of directors on Friday.

A statement from the board said Mr Vandenbon quit office “to make himself fully available to the files relating to the Eseka railway disaster of October 21, 2016"However, no reasons were given as to the resignation of Mr Sali.

In the aftermath of the train crash, victims and families of the dead filed a lawsuit against Camrail and Bollore, accusing them of negligence and involuntary manslaughter.

Bollore is a French industrial group that owns the firm.

A government report last month said the passenger train was overloaded, was going at more than twice the speed limit, and its brake were defective. The train derailed in the town of Eseka on its way to the port city of Doula from the capital Yaoundé.

"The main reason the train's coaches overturned was speeding (96 km/h) on a rail section with a low speed limit (40 km/h)," said the report.

The government gave an initial death toll of 79 with more than 400 others injured in the immediate aftermath of the derailment. Though that number had been expected to rise, no final figure has been given.

The commission of inquiry, set up by President Paul Biya to probe the crash, recommended that the report be forwarded to the judicial authorities “for all legal intents and purposes.”

A statement from the office of the president said Mr Biya had taken heed of the report and would "review the concession agreement signed on January 19, 1999 between the State of Cameroon and Camrail and the two amendments concluded in 2005 and 2008".

To replace the two executives who quit, Camrail’s board on Friday appointed Mr Aboubakar Abbo as the new chairman, Mr Morel Jean Pierre as the managing director, deputised by Mr Michel Ossock and Gilbert Nkana Pondy.

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