Rail disaster driver was talking on the phone at time of crash
The driver at the centre of last week's Spanish rail disaster was speaking on the telephone at the moment his train derailed, data from the "black box" recorders has shown.
Francisco Jose Garzon Amo (52), who faces multiple charges of negligent homicide over the crash, was talking on the telephone to an official at Renfe, the state-owned railway operator, according to a statement released yesterday by a court in northern Spain.
He had received a call from controllers on his work mobile and was being given instructions on what route to take to his final destination. He may also have been consulting a map at the time, according to the court in Santiago de Compostela.
"Minutes before the train came off the tracks he received a call on his work phone to get indications on the route he had to take to get to Ferrol," the statement said.
"From the content of the conversation and background noise it seems that the driver consulted a map or paper document."
The court also said that the train had been travelling as fast as 192kmh moments before the crash, but that the driver had hit the brakes and slowed to 153kmh by the time it flew off the tracks.
Data recovered from the two black box recorders on the train were handed over to Luis Alaez, the magistrate at the court in Santiago de Compostela, who is overseeing the investigation to determine the causes of Spain's worst rail accident for seven decades.
Mr Garzon Amo was released on Sunday following a two-hour closed hearing in which he admitted "a lapse of concentration" and speeding into the curve where the limit was 80kmh and claimed he thought that he was on another section of track.
The train was carrying 218 passengers plus crew from Madrid bound for the port city of El Ferrol in Spain's Galicia region when it derailed, killing 79 people. Hospital officials said 66 people were still being treated for injuries and that 16 of those, including a child, were "critical". Investigators from the court, forensic police experts, the Ministry of Transport and Renfe examined the contents of the two black boxes recovered from the lead and rear cars of the train. (© Daily Telegraph, London)