In 2007, the Heilbronn public prosecutor closed the case against the German fan heater manufacturer due to lack of adequate suspicion. In their report on the investigation, the German authorities came to conclusions that were completely at odds with the Austrian criminal case. The German investigators were not given the evidence that was supposed to prove the alleged “production and construction error” in the heater. The whereabouts of this evidence are still unclear.
For a start, the German investigators found that the fan heater was used improperly and its design was altered. The expert witnesses did not address either of these facts in the Austrian criminal proceedings.
The German investigators also contradicted the Austrian court’s ruling that the fan heater was suitable for installation in the train because it had all the certification marks.
The expert who had testified to the alleged “production and construction error” of the fan heater in the Austrian criminal proceedings made an incorrect assumption: he was of the opinion that the heater’s central suspension and heating element had already broken when the fan heater was removed from the train and formulated his report accordingly. The second expert who gave him the damaged fan heater apparently did not inform him about it. The authors of the book “155” can now prove that the fan heater was subjected to functionality tests after it was removed, ie that it was fully functional.
In his report, the aforementioned second expert described a functionality test on the damaged heater and attempted to prove that the glowing heating coil touched the plastic rear wall of the heater and set it on fire. His report, however, failed to mention that the heating element, which can reach up to 600 degrees during operation, could only touch the rear wall because it had previously been bent (by an unknown person).
The German Plastics Institute in Darmstadt could not explain the damage to the heater that was found by Austrian experts.
The Austrian court did not question the experts’ experiments on the damaged heater, although the photos taken soon after the accident (which can also be seen here on the homepage) show an intact, albeit very dirty, heater.
In Austria, the inside of the fan heater was never examined for oil, and the judge found that the fan heater had not been contaminated with oil when it was removed. Only German authorities carried out chemical analyses on the fan heater and detected oil residues.
Details of the German oil analyses, six years after the disaster (the report refers to the photos that can be seen on 155.at on the “Hydraulic Oil” page).