Spanish train crash driver ‘refusing to answer’ police questions

Black-box located and expected to shed light on fatal incident near Santiago de Compostela

Fri, Jul 26, 2013, 21:12

A train driver suspected of causing Spain’s deadliest train disaster for 70 years has refused to answer police questions, Spanish officials have confirmed.

Francisco Jose Garzon Amo (52), who is under armed guard in hospital, is to be questioned over suspected reckless driving following the devastating crash which left 78 people dead and almost 170 injured.

Investigators are looking into possible failings by the driver after the Madrid to Ferrol service derailed on Wednesday night as it approached the city of Santiago de Compostela.

Authorities have located the train’s so-called “black box” which is expected to shed further light on the disaster’s cause. A Spanish police spokesman confirmed the driver had refused to answer questions and he is now expected to questioned by a judge.

Jaime Iglesias, police chief of Spain’s northwest Galicia region, said Mr Amo would be questioned “as a suspect for a crime linked to the cause of the accident” and described the alleged offence as “recklessness”. Police said the number of dead, yesterday thought to be 80, has been reduced to 78 as forensic science units continue to identify remains.

A spokesman for Spain’s National Police said that Mr Amo was arrested in hospital yesterday at 8pm on suspicion of causing the crash. Some 72 of those killed in the catastrophe have now been formally identified, while DNA results for the remaining six are expected in the coming days.

The revised death toll came as forensic scientists matched body parts with eachother at a makeshift morgue set up in a sports arena.

Early indications suggested the train was traveling at around 190km/h - more than twice the 80km/h speed limit - when it crashed while heading into a curve.

Gonzalo Ferre, president of the rail infrastructure company Adif, said the driver should have started slowing the train 4km before reaching a dangerous bend that train drivers had been told to respect.

An inquiry is also looking into whether the Alvia 730 series train’s in-built speed regulation systems failed.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, who was born in Santiago de Compostela, visited the crash scene yesterday and declared three days of national mourning. The full horror of the disaster was revealed in harrowing video footage of the moment the train derailed.