Spain train driver ignored 3 warning signals to slow down before crash: investigators
Police stand guard as train driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, centre, leaves the court following his release in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Sunday, July 28, 2013. (AP / Lalo R. Villar)
Harold Heckle, The Associated Press
Published Friday, August 2, 2013 11:37AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 2, 2013 11:06PM EDT
MADRID, Spain -- The driver of a Spanish train that derailed, killing 79 people, ignored three warnings to reduce speed in the two minutes before the train hurtled off the tracks on a treacherous curve, crash investigators said Friday.
A court statement said the driver was talking on the phone to a colleague when he received the first automatic warning in his cabin of a sharply reduced speed zone ahead. The statement said the warning was by means of an audible sound but provided no further detail.
Police forensic tests on the train's black box data recorders showed the last warning came just 250 metres before a dangerous curve where the accident occurred last week in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
At that point, the train was going 195 kph when the speed limit was set at 80 kph. Four seconds later the driver applied emergency brakes.
By the time Francisco Jose Garzon Amo applied the brakes, the train was already beginning to lose contact with the rails, the statement said. The total derailment occurred at 179 kph.
Garzon has admitted in court that he was travelling too fast but could not explain to an investigating judge why he didn't slow down earlier. He was arrested shortly after the crash but was released by the judge on provisional charges relating to multiple counts of negligent homicide.
In a court statement, the judge said the phone call, which came from the train's on-board ticket inspector, had been inappropriate, but added that the accident "seems to have been caused, no doubt, by the driver's inappropriate and unpredictable driving."
Of the passengers who were injured in the accident, 54 were still in the hospital late Friday, nine in critical condition.
The investigation is expected to last several weeks before presenting its formal conclusions.