The driver of the high-speed train that derailed last week near Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, killing 79 people and injuring 150 others, was on the phone, and was traveling at twice the permitted speed at the time of the crash, preliminary investigations conducted by the Superior Court of Justice of Galicia showed.
Based on data obtained from two black boxes inside the train, investigators found out that the driver, Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, received a call from Renfe, the state-run railway company, informing him about an impending turn. Garzon was looking at a map or document at the time of the crash, ABC reported.
“Seconds before the accident the brakes were activated. It is estimated that at the time of the derailment the train was travelling at 153kph," ABC reported, citing a court statement.
Garzon, 52, was arrested last week from a hospital room where he was being treated for his injuries. He was charged, on Sunday, with numerous counts of reckless homicide, and was released without bail. Garzon’s current whereabouts have not been revealed.
Minutes after the accident, Garzon reportedly telephoned Renfe saying he wanted to die, and during his court hearing, the driver admitted to a lapse in concentration. “He believed he was on a different section of the track and when he started to slow down it was too late to keep control of the train," newspaper El Pais reported.
According to a New York Times report, Garzon often boasted about his penchant for speed on his Facebook page, and last year, he posted a photograph of a locomotive speedometer needle stuck at 200 kilometers per hour, on the social networking site.
He captioned the photograph to say the speedometer reading “has not been tampered with,” the New York Times said.