Panos and Mirela Routsi, who reside in Larissa, break down in tears as they plead for information about their 22-year-old son Denis, who had traveled to Athens to visit friends and was headed back home in the train that never arrived.
Late on Tuesday, a passenger train and a cargo train collided head-on at high speed, resulting in Greece’s deadliest rail catastrophe, which claimed at least 57 lives, many of them university students. Nationwide student protests have taken place.
Police said 31 bodies have now been identified – almost all from DNA tests as the crash was so violent.
“Eleven families have been informed and this painful process is continuing. In the labs, the identification process is under way around the clock and all other work has been suspended,” a police spokesperson said.
Denis’ mother, Mirela Routsi, who showed reporters a picture on her mobile of her son beaming, was still waiting.
“I have given DNA, I don’t have any news at the moment. I am appealing to those that were saved in that wagon if someone recognised him, if they can contact me … (to tell me) if he was in his seat, if he had gotten up, if he moved,” she said.
Anger has grown in Greece over the crash, which the government attributed to human error but which unions say was inevitable due to lack of maintenance and faulty signalling.
“They killed him, that is what happened. They are murderers, all of them,” Panos Routsi said.
Not long before the crash, his son had told him he would be late and would call. “I’m still waiting,” Routsi said.
Railway workers extended their strike to a second day on Friday, and more rallies were planned, as many demanded how such a tragedy could have happened.
After evening protests over the past two days, some 2,000 students took to the streets in Athens on Friday, blocking the road in front of parliament for a moment of silence. Students also demonstrated in Larissa, the central city near the crash.
“Their profits, our dead,” read one banner, signed by a university student organisation.
A placard read: “It was not an accident, it was murder.”
In school yards in Athens, students used their bags to write the words “Call me when you get there,” a phrase that has become one of the protest slogans.
Carriages were thrown off the tracks, crushed and engulfed in flames when the two trains collided on the same track. There were more than 350 people on board the passenger train.
The 59-year-old Larissa station master was arrested and has admitted to some responsibility, his lawyer said, while stressing he was not the only one to blame.
“The federation has been sounding alarm bells for so many years, but it has never been taken seriously,” the main railworkers union said, demanding a meeting with the new transport minister, appointed after the crash with a mandate to ensure such a tragedy can never happen again.
The union said it wanted a clear timetable for the implementation of safety protocols.
Work continued at the crash site, where rescue staff used cranes to lift some carriages thrown off the tracks.
Opposition politicians also started to voice criticism.
“Any effort to hide and cover up the truth over the Tempi tragedy is disrespecting the dead and foretelling new tragedies,” said Popi Tsapanidou, a spokesperson for the leftwing Syriza, Greece’s main opposition party.
Before the crash, the government had said that elections would be held in the spring, with media citing April 9 as the most likely date. Political analysts say that plan might now be pushed back.