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WDKX.com » Blog » Court: Driver on phone during Spain crash
Jul 30th 2013 8:10 pm
Court: Driver on phone during Spain crash
by News


(CNN) - The driver of a train that derailed in northwestern Spain last week, killing 79 people, was on the phone with railway staff when the train crashed, court officials announced Tuesday, citing information from data recorders.

The train was going 153 kph (95 mph) when it derailed, the superior tribunal of Galicia said.

That's nearly twice the speed limit on the curve where the accident happened.

Authorities have charged the train's driver, Francisco Jose Garzon, with 79 counts of homicide by professional recklessness and an undetermined number of counts of causing injury by professional recklessness.

A court has granted Garzon conditional release, but his license to operate a train has been suspended for six months. He also was required to surrender his passport and report to court weekly. CNN efforts to locate him have been unsuccessful.

Spain train crash victims mourned at memorial mass

The train, nearing the end of a six-hour trip between Madrid and Ferrol, derailed Wednesday evening as it hurtled around a bend in Santiago de Compostela.

Minutes before the derailment, Garzon received a call on his work phone, apparently receiving instructions on the way to Ferrol from a Renfe staff member, the court said Tuesday. Background noise suggested he was looking at or shuffling papers, the court said.

On Spain's railroad system, command and control posts can communicate with drivers at any point during a journey, a spokeswoman from Renfe -- the Spanish railroad company -- told CNN's Karl Penhaul. Drivers communicate via radio-telephones known in Spanish as "tren-tierras" or train-to-land. But drivers also use mobile phones if radio-telephones are not working or "when it's considered necessary," the spokeswoman said.

Steve Harrod, a railroad transportation expert at Ohio's University of Dayton, said he was stunned by the report that the driver may have been speaking on the phone shortly before the crash. In the United States, Harrod said, railroad drivers are not allowed to use cell phones to prevent dangerous distractions.

Source: CNN.com