The driver of a Spanish train that derailed and killed 79 people was talking on the phone when the train flew off a tight curve, court documents show.
In the moments before the derailment, Garzon received a call on his work phone from Spain's national train company Renfe, court documents show. The call was to inform Francisco Garzon, 52, of the route that he needed to take. The court said Garzon was talking to train company personnel and based on black-box data recorders, appeared to be consulting a paper document at the time of the derailment.
Black-box data recorders also showed Garzon had been driving the train as fast as 192 kph — 119 mph — seconds before the brakes were activated and the derailment happened.
Garzon is suspected of driving the train at more than twice the posted speed limit through the outskirts of the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. The estimated speed of the train when it derailed was 153 kph, or 95 mph, black box data recorder showed — double the speed it should have been going.
The chairman of the national railway company Renfe said drivers are required to disconnect their private phones while on the job. Land lines are recommended for safe communications and corporate phones are allowed exclusively for instructions.
Garzon has formally been charged with 79 counts of homicide and numerous offenses of bodily harm.
Two Americans were among those killed: a Virginia woman, Ana-Maria Cordoba, 47, and a Texas woman, Myrta Fariza, 58.
Dozens are still hospitalized from the crash. Earlier this week, Reuters reported 70 people were still in the hospital, 22 of whom were in critical condition.
First published July 31 2013, 4:49 AM