SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain — Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, the 52-year-old driver of the Spain train that flew off its rails at high speed on Wednesday, arrived in court handcuffed and was charged with 79 counts of reckless homicide. The judge questioned him, and ordered him to report to court every week. The judge also forbid Garzon from leaving Spain and banned him from driving for 6 months. He was then released on bail.
The train driven by Garzon Amo was reported to have been traveling at more than twice the speed limit on a bend when it hurtled off the rails on Wednesday and slammed into a concrete wall. The president of the Spanish rail network administrator ADIF, Gonzalo Ferre, said Garzon had been warned to start slowing the train “four kilometers before the accident happened.”
Carla Serrano, who survived the crash with minor injuries, told Spanish public television that seconds before the crash, the display panel in her carriage showed the train was traveling at 200 kph – more than double the 80 kph speed limit for that section of track. Some media reports described Garzon Amo as a speed freak who once posted a picture on his Facebook page of a train speedometer at 200 kph.
Evaristo Iglesias, a resident who had rushed to the scene at the time of the accident, said in a television interview that the driver told him minutes after the crash he had been unable to brake. “He said he had to brake to 80 and couldn’t, that he was going fast.”
Evaristo and another man accompanied the driver to a stretch of flat land where other injured people were being laid out after the accident. Evaristo said Garzon kept saying, “I want to die! I want to die! I don’t want to see this!”
Garzon has been with the firm for 30 years, including 13 years as a driver, and had driven trains past the spot of the accident 60 times.
A memorial service is scheduled to be held in Santiago de Compostela on Monday.