Saturday 16 November 2019

'Sensible, good at his job – how could this happen?'


Francisco Garzon, driver of the train that crashed at high speed in one of Spain's worst railway accidents, grew up around trains and spent his whole life working with them.

At least 78 people died after the train jackknifed into a concrete wall on Wednesday a few kilometres before the station in Santiago de Compostela, a pilgrim destination and capital of the north-western region of Galicia.

Mr Garzon (52), who walked away bleeding heavily from a gash to the head, survived. In shock and using an expletive, the seasoned driver hoped for no deaths and feared for his conscience.

Son of a railway worker, Mr Garzon – who was separated and lived with his mother – grew up in a small Galician town known as the cradle of the region's rail industry.

He lived in housing built for railway workers and went to a school run by state train firm Renfe. In his hometown of Monforte de Lemos, people said Mr Garzon, who worked for Renfe for 30 years – more than 10 as a driver – was known for being sensible and reliable.

They were asking why a highly qualified driver with his work history would have taken a sharp curve at more than twice the speed limit, derailing the train shortly after taking the controls.

"He was a great guy, one of the best," said Maria Montero, standing at the door of one of the Renfe-owned workers' cottages where Garzon grew up. She had known Garzon since he was a child.

"He was sensible and very good at his job, we don't know what could have happened. He was very competent," said Julia Morais (52) walking alongside the railway track with her mother.

Investigations into the cause of the accident focused on why this experienced driver did not slow down as he entered the known danger spot on the outskirts of Santiago.

Pictures show the grey-haired, slight driver speaking into a mobile phone, his face covered in blood.

"I hope there are no dead, because this will weigh on my conscience," Mr Garzon said in one of the conversations, according to media reports of the transcripts.

Tracy Rucinski

Irish Independent

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