MADRID: The driver of a train that derailed in Spain killing 79 people was on the phone to a coworker at the time of the accident, while the train was racing at nearly twice the speed limit, investigators said on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
The train’s two data recording “black boxes” showed that moments before the crash the train was travelling at 192 kilometers (119 miles) per hour, said the Superior Court of Justice of Galicia, which is leading the investigation.
“Seconds before the accident the brakes were activated. It is estimated that at the time of the derailment the train was travelling at 153 kilometers an hour,” it said in a statement.
The speed limit at the spot where the Madrid to Ferrol train derailed on Wednesday on the outskirts of Santiago de Compostela is 80 kilometers an hour.
The driver of the train was speaking on his work phone to staff members of state railway company Renfe and appeared to consult a map at the time of the accident, the court added.
“Minutes before the train came off the tracks he received a call on his work phone to get indications on the route he had to take to get to Ferrol. From the content of the conversation and background noise it seems that the driver consulted a map or paper document,” it said.
The eight-carriage train flew off the tracks on a bend and ploughed into a concrete siding about four kilometers (2.5 miles) from Santiago in northwest Spain.
A United States (US) woman critically injured in the crash died in hospital on Sunday, bringing the toll to 79 including nine foreigners. It was Spain’s deadliest train accident in decades.
Examining judge Luis Alaez on Sunday charged the driver, Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, with 79 counts of reckless homicide and released him under court supervision.
Garzon, 52, admitted during his court appearance on Sunday that he had had a “lapse” of concentration, Spanish media have reported.
Several newspapers said the driver told the judge he had confused the stretch of track he was on at the time of the accident with another part of the route.
“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,” El Pais wrote.
State railway track operator Adif is checking all tracks and security systems in its network in the wake of the accident, a company spokeswoman said.
“This is a precautionary measure. After what happened, the protocol is to review all systems to confirm that everything is working properly,” she said.