Spain train crash driver activated brakes

2013-08-02 18:51
Police stand guard as train driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, centre, leaves court. (Lalo R Villar, AP)

Police stand guard as train driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, centre, leaves court. (Lalo R Villar, AP)

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Spanish train driver was on the phone

2013-07-31 11:03

Court officials say the Spanish train's driver was speeding and on the phone when the train crashed, killing 79 people. Watch.WATCH

Santiago de Compostela - The driver of the train that crashed in Spain last week activated an emergency brake just before derailing, media reported on Friday.

The high-speed Alvia train veered off the rails and split apart not far from the northwestern city of Santiago de Compostela on 24 July. Seventy-nine people were killed and more than 150 were injured.

Engine driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo has admitted to driving at more than twice the speed limit of 80km/h on the curve.

The train's black box revealed that before arriving at the curve Garzon was driving at 199km/h in a spot where the speed limit was 200km/h, according to the news agency EFE and the daily El Pais.

At that point, he received a phone call from a ticket inspector travelling on the same train, who wanted to instruct him which platform to enter at an upcoming station to facilitate the exit of a family with children.

The train's security system alerted Garzon that he was about to enter the curve.

The phone call lasted less than two minutes and ended 11 seconds before the crash.

79 counts of homicide

The black box reveals the driver screamed and entered the curve at 195km/h. He then activated the emergency brake, and the train derailed at 179km/h.

Garzon and ticket inspector Antonio Martin Marugan had initially kept silent about the phone call. Martin has denied that the two wanted to keep it secret, saying they were too shocked by the accident to discuss all the details.

Martin was questioned by an investigating judge, refusing to talk to journalists on leaving the court on Friday.

Garzon has been charged with 79 counts of homicide through professional recklessness.

But judge Luis Alaez has said Martin could not be held responsible for the accident, even if his phone call had been "unfortunate". The ticket inspector was questioned as a witness.

Rail union representatives said such phone calls were not unusual, even if the rail company Renfe instructs employees on trains to use phones only in cases of emergency.

Fifty-four injured victims remain in hospital. Nine of them are listed in critical condition.

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