Strange Twist: Auto braking system on truck may have saved lives in Berlin attack

Posted at 8:45 AM, Dec 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-29 08:45:47-05

(CNN) — German authorities believe the automatic braking system installed in the truck used in the Berlin Christmas market attack may have saved lives, according to a joint investigation by German media outlets.

Twelve people were killed and at least 48 more injured when attacker Anis Amri plowed through an open-air Christmas market on the evening of December 19.

The truck came to a halt, preventing further destruction, reports by German media outlets NDR, WDR and Süddeutsche Zeitung said Wednesday, because the automatic braking system sensed an impact and applied the brakes.

A spokesman for the truck manufacturer, Scania, confirmed to CNN that the vehicle used in the attack. a Scania R450 semi-trailer, was fitted with an automatic braking system, as required under EU regulations passed in 2012 for all trucks exceeding a certain size.

A black box-style system which records truck movements, speed, and driver activity is also required.

Scania spokesman Hans-Åke Danielsson said the company had provided police with that information.

According to Scania, it is possible for the driver to override the automatic braking system.

But the German media outlets, quoting an unnamed government source, reported that the technology was deployed, prevented further casualties.

The same media outlets reported that Amri sent a picture of himself from the truck prior to the attack, with the message: “My brothers everything is ok, so God wishes. I am in the car, praying for my brother, praying for me.”

In a similar attack in the French city of Nice in July, an 18-ton truck was driven for more than a mile through crowds gathered along a main street for Bastille Day celebrations, killing 84 people and injuring many more.

After the Berlin attack, Amri, a 24-year-old Tunisian, fled Berlin and was killed in a shootout with Italian police in Milan on December 23.

Police continue to work to map out his movements and trace potential links to a broader terror network.

A statement from the German federal prosecutor’s office Wednesday said federal police had detained a 40-year-old Tunisian man who had possible ties to Amri.

Meanwhile, Dutch police said Wednesday that it was “likely” but “not 100% sure” that Amri traveled through the Netherlands on his way to Milan.