The driver of the train that crashed last Wednesday evening in Spain has been under arrest since it occurred, and just yesterday he was formally charged with 79 counts of homicide committed by ‘professional recklessness.’ Francisco Jose Garzon was granted a conditional release but saw his train operator’s license suspended for six months, also surrendering his passport and remaining under assignment to report to court each week. The 79th victim of the crash passed away in the hospital on Sunday.
63 of the deceased were from Spain, while some of the other victims came from Europe, Latin America, and the United States. CNN reports the two American victims claimed in the crash as Ana-Maria Cordoba of Arlington, VA and Myrta Fariza, who was in Spain with her husband visiting a Catholic festival.
This train wreck, according to the Guardian, was the worst rail disaster in Spain in almost 70 years. Occurring when the Alvia high speed train derailed at 210 kph or just over 130 mph, the train then slammed into a concrete wall just before the station in Santiago de Compostela.
Garzon had admitted, according to the police, his recklessness behind the wheel. A Reuters profile of Garzon suggests that, as the son of a railway worker, Garzon would have spent most of his life around trains. The main question revolving around the accident was why such an experienced operator would have taken the sharp curve at such high speeds.
The bend where the wreck occurred exists to transition from a high-speed track into a traditional track. This places responsibility on the driver, who must manually slow the train because the system has no automatic brakes. CNN reports that the speed limit for the part of the track where the crash occurred is 80 kph.
Reuters also notes the driver’s Facebook includes photos of his speedometer reaching high speeds, but also notes that the ‘high speed’ boasts are common among train drivers and that such speeds was normal for Garzon’s train and service record.
The Guardian also reports that the rescue operation suffered delays in coordination, with the Spanish daily paper El País quoting emergency services as having a two hour delay to reach the state of alert needed to have help called in from neighboring provinces.
The main image is from Garzon’s own Facebook. The article image is from Twitter.