Victims of Montenegro's train crash buried, investigator suggests to blame the engine driver

Funerals were held across Montenegro on Wednesday for the victims of Monday's train crash that killed 44 people and injured nearly 200 others. In Podgorica, the capital of the tiny Balkan republic, long processions of weeping relatives walked slowly behind wooden coffins including a few tiny caskets for the youngest victims of the deadly accident, one of the deadliest in Europe in recent decades.

Preliminary investigations indicated that the train driver may have failed to lock the brakes after he left his seat to make an unspecified repair. That set the train in motion without him in the driver's seat.

"The tragedy was made worse because many children were on the train," Montenegro's President Filip Vujanovic said Wednesday before attending several funerals at the main Podgorica cemetery and urged his tiny republic of 650,000 people to "do our best to help the injured and the victims' families."

At least 300 passengers, many of them schoolchildren returning from a ski trip, were believed to have been on the train traveling Monday from Montenegro's mountainous north down to the coastal city of Bar, when it suddenly ran out of control and derailed into a 100 meter-(330 foot) deep ravine.

At least 5 children were among the killed and 32 among the 198 injured, many still in critical condition.

Investigators believe a "human factor" was behind the disaster because "the train was in perfect condition," said Ilija Lubarda of Montenegro Railways after examining the wreckage at the bottom of the steep Moraca River Canyon just north of Podgorica.

The driver who was among the injured has been placed under police custody in the hospital.

Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic also attended the funerals in Podgorica and then more than a dozen in Bijelo Polje, the northern town of some 35,000 people that was hardest hit as some 24 of its residents were crushed to death.

World Health Organization representative in Serbia-Montenegro, Dorit Nitzan, arrived here to offer her organization's assistance in the aftermath of the crash.

She praised local rescue teams for their swift response in evacuating and caring for the injured and said that, following an assessment of needs by Montenegro's Health Ministry, WHO "will try to help as much as possible", reports the AP.

D.M.