Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Francisco Garzon, Spanish Train Driver, Charged but Questions Remain

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Francisco Garzon, Spanish Train Driver, Charged but Questions Remain

Article excerpt

The driver of a Spanish passenger train was charged with involuntary homicide after confirming to a judge that last week's derailment - which killed 79 people and injured dozens more - was the result of a lapse in attention.

Francisco Jose Garzon, 52, reportedly admitted he was speeding at 190 kilometers (120 miles) per hour in an 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour zone when the train entered a sharp curve just minutes from the Santiago de Compostela station in the northwestern region of Galicia.

Mr. Garzon, a veteran driver with an unblemished record, was released after being charged with 79 counts of homicide and numerous injuries, "all of them committed because of professional recklessness," a statement said. Police jailed him ahead of his court appearance for one night after being released from the hospital.

The court confiscated his passport, ordered him to appear weekly, and prohibited him from driving trains. Also injured in the accident, with nine stitches in his head, Garzon testified for two hours in a closed-door hearing.

Spanish media quoting judicial sources said he didn't blame the tracks, train, or any other cause for "a lapse in attention." He tried to brake, he reportedly told the judge, but it was too late.

The court is also reviewing his mobile phone records, including calls, text messaging, and social networking to determine whether his distraction was related to his communications. The content of the train's equivalent to a black box will be reviewed on Tuesday to investigate other potential security lapses that might have contributed to the crash, including the absence of an automatic emergency system and other technical issues.

Garzon hasn't spoken publicly since Wednesday evening, when the derailment of the high-speed train, carrying more than 220 passengers, shocked Spain.

Spain's Prince Felipe and his wife Princess Letizia will lead an official funeral ceremony Monday evening in Santiago's medieval cathedral. …

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