Sunday 24 September 2017

Spain train crash driver: ‘I want to die’

Martin Roberts , Adam Withnall

Spanish police have formally detained the driver of the train which derailed at high speed in the country’s worst rail accident for more than 40 years, in which at least 80 people have died.

Francisco José Garzón Amo, 52, is reported by the El Mundo newspaper to have told rescuers who dragged him from the wreckage: “I have f***ed it up. I want to die.”

The train is thought to have been travelling at 190 km/h when it crashed, or more than double the 80 km/h limit on that section of track. According to El País newspaper, an alarm signal on the driver’s control warned him that he needed to slow down to negotiate a tight bend 4 km before pulling in to Santiago de Compostela.

And local media also reported that Mr Garzón, a driver with 30 years’ experience, radioed the station from the cabin after it derailed, saying: “I have come off the track. What am I going to do? What am I going to do?”

Mr Garzón has been in hospital since the crash on Wednesday night and is under police guard, although his injuries are minor. A judge has been assigned to the case, but he said he was too busy to question the driver on Thursday because he was overwhelmed with the task of identifying victims.

Police said they had yet to identify six of the bodies and forensics were still seeking additional proof, such as DNA tests, to put names to the rest, while medical officials said 32 people were still in a critical condition in hospital, including three children.

The judge, from the Third District Court in Santiago de Compostela, has also ordered police to take custody of the black box that was recording data on board the train. Under Spanish law, the judge has to first decide whether there is a case before recommending criminal charges and ordering a full trial, a process which can take months or years.

 

The crash occurred near the city's main station


View Santiago de Compostela train crash in a larger map

 

A colleague of Mr Garzón defended him from suggestions he boasted of speeding after media outlets picked up photos the driver had posted on Facebook, which showed more than 200 km/h on his speedometer. The train which crashed had just left a section of track upgraded in 2011 for use by high-speed trains, which are in service on many other parts of Spain and travel at up to 300 km/h.

Train driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo is helped by two men as he is evacuated from the site of a train accident in Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Train driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo is helped by two men as he is evacuated from the site of a train accident in Santiago de Compostela, Spain
A relative of passengers involved in a train crash talks on her mobile phone, as she waits for news at the Cersia Building
An aerial view of the crash near Santiago de Compostela

Francisco Cárdenas, himself an engine driver, said Mr Garzón had worked for years on slow freight services before his transfer to intercity routes, which In Spain often reach speeds of 250 km/h.

“It may be that moving from speeds of 80 or 90, to 200 or so, came as a novelty, but that’s it. Mind you, if he was going at 200, it was on a stretch of track designed for 200,” Mr Cárdenas told state television.

State rail operator Renfe meanwhile said that it had restored normal service on two out of three tracks on the line affected by the crash.

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