Driver on phone when Spanish train derailed

Train driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo

Train driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo

Wed, Jul 31, 2013, 01:00

The driver of the Spanish disaster train was on the phone and travelling at 95mph, almost twice the speed limit, when it derailed killing 79 people.

The train had been going as fast as 119mph shortly before the incident, and the driver activated the brakes “seconds before the crash”, according to a statement from the court in Santiago de Compostela, whose investigators gathered the information from two black box data recorders recovered from the train.

The speed limit on the section of track was 50mph.

Driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo was talking on the phone to an official of national rail company Renfe when the crash happened and apparently was consulting a paper document at the time. Garzon was provisionally charged on Sunday with multiple counts of negligent homicide.

The driver received a call on his work phone in the cabin, not his personal mobile, to tell him what approach to take toward his final destination. The Renfe employee on the telephone “appears to be a controller”, the court said.

“From the contents of the conversation and from the background noise it seems that the driver [was] consulting a plan or similar paper document,” the court said.

Investigators from the court, forensic police experts, the ministry of transport and Renfe examined the contents of the black boxes recovered from the train.

The Spanish rail agency has said the brakes should have been applied 2.5 miles before the train reached the curve.