Sunday 28 December 2014

Spain train driver out of hospital

Published 27/07/2013 | 02:27

Police stand guard as the wreckage of the crashed train is seen ready to be moved in Santiago de Compostela (AP)
Police stand guard as the wreckage of the crashed train is seen ready to be moved in Santiago de Compostela (AP)
An aerial image shows the devastation in Spain (AP)
Injured train driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo is helped away by two men from the site of the disaster (AP)
Derailed cars are removed as emergency personnel work at the site of a train accident in Santiago de Compostela (AP)
The moment the front of the train derails on a bend is caught on security camera footage (AP)
Emergency personnel respond to the scene of a train derailment in Santiago de Compostela, Spain (AP)
Rail personnel and firefighters inspect derailed cars at the site of a train accident in Spain (AP)

The injured driver of the Spanish train that derailed at high speed, killing 78 people and injuring dozens more, has been released from hospital but is still being held in a police station as authorities increasingly focus on his culpability.

Francisco Jose Garzon Amo is due to appear before a judge by Sunday evening, a hotly awaited opportunity for him to give his explanation for Spain's deadliest train crash in decades.

Garzon has been under the microscope, with the country's railway agency saying it was his responsibility to brake before going into the high-risk curve where the train careered off the rails and smashed into a wall. It is still not clear whether the brakes failed or were never used, and Garzon has remained silent so far.

"There is rational evidence to lead us to think that the driver could have eventual responsibility," interior minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz told reporters at the crash site near the Catholic pilgrimage town of Santiago de Compostela.

He said Garzon is now being held on suspicion of negligent homicide. Authorities had previously said he was detained on suspicion of recklessness. Speaking later at the police station, the minister also said that if Garzon were to choose to give a statement to the police before testifying in front of a judge, his lawyer would be called. So far the driver has opted to use his constitutional right to remain silent, "although he may change his mind on that", Mr Fernandez Diaz said.

The wreckage still remained near the site on Saturday as passenger trains passed by. Black ribbons of mourning dotted the Santiago de Compostela and flags flew at half-mast. Makeshift shrines drew mourners to the city's cathedral. Garzon had been expected to give a preliminary statement to judicial police as early as Thursday, but that process was delayed, reportedly due to health reasons. Earlier on Saturday, the justice department said Garzon's first appearance before a judge had been postponed until Sunday.

A blood-soaked Garzon was photographed after the Wednesday crash being escorted away from the wreckage, at first by civilians who had hurried to the scene of the accident and then by police, but it is not clear what his medical status is. Unconfirmed media reports said that Garzon had injured ribs.

The train's eight passenger carriages packed with 218 passengers blazed far over the speed limit into a curve and violently tipped over. Diesel fuel sent flames coursing through some cabins. Investigators are examining recording devices from the train but have not officially said how fast it was going when it derailed.

One local resident has claimed the driver said minutes after the crash that he had been going fast and could not brake. In a TV interview, Evaristo Iglesias said he and another person accompanied Francisco Jose Garzon Amo to a stretch of flat ground where other injured people were being laid out, waiting for emergency services to arrive. Iglesias said: "He told us that he wanted to die."

He adds that Garzon said he "had been going fast" and "he said he had needed to brake but couldn't".

Press Association

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