A passenger train carrying hundreds of people collided at high speed with an oncoming freight train in northern Greece, and The Associated Press was the first major news agency to deliver live, visual coverage. Dozens of people died, and dozens more were hurt in the country’s deadliest rail disaster.
Speed and activation of stringer networks allowed AP to dominate early, with all formats capturing the details at the scene before other outlets started their news cycles. The quick decision to make the story AP’s lead and to promote it with customer-ready videos and other promotional material put the news organization ahead for hours.
Several university students were among those who died after being trapped in the twisted, smoking wreckage. The fiery Feb. 28 collision near Tempe sparked intense protests in several cities over the perceived lack of safety measures in Greece’s rail network. A stationmaster has been charged with negligent homicide and other offenses.
The core team of AP’s Derek Gatopolous on the text side, Thanassis Stavrakis for photos and Theodora Tongas in video reacted early. The teamwork was a great example of cross-format multitasking, with Thessaloniki stringer Costas Kantouris working with local photographer Vaggelis Kousioras and Thessaloniki freelancers Giannis Papanikos and Vassilis Kommatas, who not only produced comprehensive and striking visuals but also contributed crucial details for the text story.
Larissa stringer Vaggelis Kousioras was one of the first journalists at the scene. He quickly sent photo stills that also became the first video edit received by customers. While waiting for reinforcements from Thessaloniki, Kousioras followed with a first drone video. Upon arrival, Thessaloniki-based Vassilis Kommatas provided the first international media live.
The main competitor would not go live until three hours later. AP’s coverage was nonstop and relentless as the crews and the staff back in Athens tried to cover different aspects of the story as quickly as possible.
AP had the first video edit, first drone images and first live among international agencies.
In photos, AP’s images dominated the covers of major European and U.S. newspapers the next day: The Washington Post and USA Today (U.S.), The Globe and The Mail (Canada), El País (Spain), Il Corriere della Sera (Italy). Many Greek media also relied on AP’s coverage.
For fast, smart multiformat coverage of a massive breaking story, the AP team shares Best of the Week — Second Winner honors.