Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, the driver of the high-speed train that derailed in Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain last Wednesday, killing 79 people, was released on bail pending trial on charges of reckless homicide, a court ruled on Sunday.
Garzon Amo, 52, appeared before a magistrate, Luis Alaez, on Sunday where he reportedly admitted to speeding the train through a sharp curve, causing passenger cars to derail and smash into a concrete wall next to the tracks.
Alaez formally charged Garzon Amo with "79 counts of homicide and numerous offences of bodily harm, all of them committed through professional recklessness," the court said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Garzon Amo was arrested on Thursday and was undergoing treatment after sustaining head and rib injuries during the accident. In Sunday's closed-door hearing, Garzon Amo gave his statement before the judge and blamed the incident on a momentary lapse, media reports said.
Judge Alaez released Garzon Amo, pending his trial, stating that none of the parties in the case -- including state train operator Renfe, state railway firm Adif and two insurance companies -- had opposed his release and he was not seen as a flight risk.
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The conditions for Garzon Amo's release require that the driver should check in regularly with the court, that he should surrender his passport and that he should not drive trains.
On Wednesday night, some of the eight carriages of a high-speed passenger train with 218 passengers onboard slammed into a concrete wall after derailing on a curve and caught fire. One of the carriages was tossed onto an adjoining embankment due to the impact of the crash, Reuters reported.
The death toll from the disaster reached 79 after a critically injured woman from the U.S. succumbed to her injuries on Sunday. Earlier, Julio Gomez-Pomar, the head of Renfe, had said the train involved in the accident had cleared security checks and had received the mandatory maintenance.
"As far as we know, the train was in perfect condition when it set off on its journey," Gomez-Pomar told ABC, a local newspaper. He said it was the driver’s responsibility to reduce the train's speed while negotiating sharp curves such as the one where the train derailed.