SUV driver behind deadly Berlin crash likely suffered ‘accute health problem’

The lawyer of the SUV driver behind a deadly crash in Berlin earlier this month has issued a first statement, shedding more light on the cause of the incident.

SUV driver behind deadly Berlin crash likely suffered 'accute health problem'
A memorial remained set up at the site of the crash on Monday at the corner of Berlin's Invalidenstraße and Ackerstraße. Photo: DPA

After a 42-year-old man killed four people – including a three-year-old boy- in the centre of Berlin with an SUV in the evening on Friday September 6th, there has been growing speculation about what happened.

READ ALSO: Berlin horror crash prompts growing calls to ban SUVs from German cities

Police did not believe malintent to be a probable cause, and reported that the man likely suffered a health emergency. Now the driver’s lawyer has issued a first statement, reported RBB on Monday evening.

The lawyer stated that he had “indeed confirmed that an acute health problem could have been the cause of the accident,” said a spokesman for the Berlin public prosecutor's office to RBB Abendschau

“The indications and speculation, as they existed from the outset, have currently become more concrete,” he added.

'Can happen to anyone'

After the incident, the co-passenger had told police that the driver had possibly suffered from an epileptic seizure. 

The police searched the driver's home on Friday and seized evidence, but it is not yet publicly known what the public prosecutor office confiscated.

The driver is currently under investigation for negligent manslaughter. However, a medical emergency “can happen to anyone,” said the spokesman of the prosecutor's office. 

He stressed it is important to take into account “to what extent such a health situation could have been foreseeable by the defendant,” before negligence is considered as a cause.

However, the police cannot inspect his patient file because the file is subject to a so-called ban on confiscation due to medical confidentiality. 

The driver could release the file, but so far he has chosen not to do so, said the spokesman. 

Spawning a debate on SUVs

Following the incident, several politicians and traffic experts called into question the rising popularity of the vehicles – characterized by their broad shape and several off-road features – in Germany, and if they should be better regulated.

The district mayor of Berlin-Mitte Stephan von Dassel stated that “such tank-like cars don’t belong in the centre of cities”.

Meanwhile, protests against SUVs took place at the annual Frankfurt car show this weekend amid Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit. 

Demonstrators spoke out against safety and environmental risks they feel are posed by increasingly popular vehicles. According to estimates, nearly one million will be registered for the first time in Germany this year.

READ ALSO: Frankfurt car show faces protests over SUVs and climate woes


The statement – (die) Stellungsahme

Indications/clues – (die) Hinweise

The file (in law or administration) – (die) Akte

Ban on confiscation – (das) Beschlagnahmeverbot

Confidentiality (in medicine or law) – (die) Schweigepflicht

Foreseeable – vorhersehbar

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.