Spain: Court says Spain train driver on phone at time of crash

31st Jul 2013

The driver of the train that derailed in Spain killing 79 people was talking on the phone at the time of the accident, according to black box data. The train was also traveling at 95 mph (153 kph) when it crashed.

Just moments before the accident, the train was going as fast as 119 mph and the driver activated its brakes “seconds before the crash”, according to a written statement Tuesday from the Galician Superior Court. The information was taken from the train’s two black box data recorders.

The high-speed train carrying 218 people derailed on a curve and crashed near Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain late last Wednesday. The speed limit on that part of the track was 50 mph.

Some 66 people are still hospitalized due to their injuries, 15 of them in critical condition. It was Spain’s worst rail disaster in decades.

Driver on phone

The black boxes also indicated that the driver, Francisco Garzon Amo, was talking on the phone to an official from the Renfe rail company at the time of the crash to determine the path to Ferrol, the train’s final stop. The Renfe employee talking to the train driver “appears to be a controller”, the court’s statement said.

“From the contents of the conversation and from the background noise it seems that the driver [was] consulting a plan or similar paper document,” it said.

Garzon, 52, was charged on Sunday with multiple counts of negligible homicide. According to media reports, he admitted in a closed-door hearing that he took the curve too fast and that the train’s brake was activated seconds before. Spanish rail authorities have said the brakes should have been activated 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) before the curve.

The train was on a section of its route that lacked an automatic breaking system when it crashed.

dr/ph (AP, dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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