Published November 07, 2004
| Associated Press
NANCY, France – A French anti-nuclear protester was killed Sunday in eastern France (search) when his leg was severed by a train carrying radioactive waste to Germany, officials said.
Paramedics quickly cared for protester Sebastien Briat, 21, after the incident near the town of Avricourt, but he died on way to a nearby hospital, officials said. He had been surprised by the train while trying to chain himself to the tracks as part of a protest.
At least one other demonstrator was injured, officials said.
The death prompted an outpouring of sympathy in Germany (search), where an anti-nuclear group abandoned calls for similar protests along the train route and hundreds of people gathered to mourn the accident.
Dozens of French police had been patrolling the tracks near Avricourt to keep protesters off, but those in a group with Briat had slipped by, officials said.
"These youths — eight or ten of them — had hidden behind a small hill and wanted to place themselves after a bend in the tracks to chain themselves up," said government prosecutor Michel Senthille. "They got caught by surprise when the train arrived as they were chaining up."
The train's driver braked suddenly but was unable to avoid hitting Briat, he said.
About 12 miles up the rails in the town of Laneuveville-devant-Nancy, police intervened to cut the chains that two protesters from activist group Sortir du Nucleaire (search) (Out of Nuclear) had used to lock themselves to the tracks, officials from railway authority SNCF said.
The train was delayed for about two hours, before continuing its route from a reprocessing plant in western France to a rail terminal in the German town of Danneberg. It was carrying 12 containers of waste destined for a storage site in nearby Gorleben.
An activist group in Germany, the German Anti-Atom Initiative, called off a planned demonstration near the southern city of Karlsruhe in the wake of the accident.
"Nobody wanted something like this to happen," said group spokesman Eric Tschoep.
In the northern German town of Hitzacker, near the way station where the waste is to be temporarily transferred, some 1,000 activists gathered in a show of sorrow and solidarity after the accident.
"We are all very shocked, horrified and dismayed," said Francis Althoff, a spokesman for the group.
At least 4,500 people demonstrated Saturday at the radioactive waste way station in Gorleben, part of regular protests over concerns that the nuclear material is unsafe.
Spent fuel from Germany's nuclear power plants is sent to France and Britain for reprocessing under contracts that oblige Germany to take back the waste.
Some previous shipments of radioactive waste to Gorleben have drawn thousands of protesters and led to clashes with police.