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Galicia train driver ‘posted top speeds on Facebook’

© Screengrab from Facebook.

Video by FRANCE 2 , FRANCE 24

Text by Sophie PILGRIM

Latest update : 2013-07-26

The driver operating the train which crashed in northwest Spain on Wednesday evening, killing scores and injuring more than 100, had boasted about travelling at high speed on Facebook, Spanish media reported on Thursday.

The driver of the Spanish train that derailed on Wednesday evening, killing at least 80 people and injuring 140 others, had previously boasted to his online friends about operating at high speeds, Spanish media reported on Thursday.

Francisco José Garzón Amo (pictured above), who was driving the passenger train at more than double the recommended speed limit around a tight bend when it derailed, had boasted about operating the vehicle at the maximum limit on social network Facebook last year, according to an image posted on Spanish news websites.

'I COULDN'T GO ANY FASTER'
The screengrab of the image uploaded to Facebook of the speedometer showing 200 km per hour.

Garzón’s Facebook account was deactivated in the early hours of Thursday morning, but not before web-users copied screengrabs of a photo on his page showing a speedometer at 200 kilometres (124 miles) per hour. According to the screengrabs, which have not been verified, Garzón posted and “Liked” the photo in March 2012.

Facebook friends then commented on the picture, which appears to have been taken with a smartphone or digital camera from inside the drivers’ cabin.

“Woah you are going so fast, braaaaaaake,” one friend wrote. Garzón replied “If I went any faster, they’d fine me,” adding that “the speedometer doesn’t lie”. Another friend joked that Garzón would “lose all his points” if he were caught by police – referring to the points system car drivers abide by. Garzón then wrote, all in capital letters, “what fun it would be to drive side-by-side the police and then pass them by, triggering the speed radar. Haha, bit of a fine for [train operator] Renfe, ha ha!”

The 52-year-old has worked for Renfe, Spain’s national rail network, for 30 years, and has been operating the high-speed route from Madrid to Ferrol for over a year, Renfe director Julio Gómez-Pomar Rodríguez said in a statement on Thursday.

“I’m doing 190!”

An intoxication examination after the accident revealed that Garzón, who is in custody in hospital, was not under the influence of alcohol when the train crashed, according to sources close to the inquiry who spoke to daily newspaper El País.

‘CRASH COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED’

Speaking on national TV channel RNE on Thursday, the secretary general of the Spanish train drivers’ union, SEMAF, said the accident “could have been avoided”if the ERTMS signalling and control system was in operation along the entire line. The system is not in place at the A Grandeira curve, he said, because the speed limit at that point is 80 k/ph, making it a standard (rather than high-speed) track.

Immediately before impact, Garzón is heard over the radio saying that the train is travelling at 200 kilometres per hour, without explaining why. “I’m doing 190!” he then exclaims, before four of the eight carriages jump the tracks and slam into the barricades, bringing all eight carriages off course and into the air. One of the carriages hurtled several metres clear of the barricade. Others jack-knifed and caught fire.

Radio excerpts recorded immediately after the crash suggest that neither Garzón nor his co-driver were aware of how devastating the accident had been.

One of the drivers signals to the control centre that his back and his ribs hurt and that he is unable to exit the train.

“I hope nobody was killed,” he says. “It would fall heavily on my conscience.” He then goes on to say, repeatedly, “We are human, we are human.”

The cause of the crash will be determined from data taken from the train’s “black box” record, investigating authorities said Thursday.

Garzón has been placed under formal investigation.

Date created : 2013-07-25

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