The driver of the train that derailed and crashed in Spain, killing 78 people told rescue workers, “I f***ed it up. I want to die.”
Those words are a reminder that while the train driver, Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, will inevitably be villainized for the death and destruction that he caused, but he’s just some guy, and he feels like most of us would having done what he did. From what we know now, it does seem like the crash was the train driver’s fault: the train was going 118 miles per hour around a curve, more than twice that turn’s speed limit of 49 mph. The train driver is being held by authorities in connection with the crash.
The total number killed in the crash was lowered from 80 to 78, though at the last report, 36 were still in critical condition at the hospital.
According to the New York Times, Amo liked to speed. He once posted a photo on Facebook of his speedometer at 200 kilometers per hour (125mph). He wrote that the speedometer “has not been tampered with,” and spoke romantically about zooming past the authorities in his train:
“Imagine what a rush it would be traveling alongside the Civil Guard, and passing them so that their speed traps go off,” he wrote, in all capitals.
As often is the case with disasters like this, there were warning signs that Amo had concerns other than his safety in mind. A reminiscent disaster in Japan, 2005, was caused by a train driver who had been cited for speeding numerous times. At the time of the crash, he was speeding because he was 90 seconds behind schedule, and attempting to catch up. Joseph Hazelwood, the captain of the oil tanker that caused the notorious Exxon Valdez spill, was known to be an alcoholic. An audio recording of him shortly before the crash that caused the spill raised suspicions that he was driving very drunk (though his crew helped him avoid legal trouble by testifying that he was sober).
People and material are often at their most vulnerable when in transit. We entrust our plane, train, boat and car drivers (stop texting!) with our lives. For that reason, we need to be stringent with who we give that responsibility to. The Spanish train crash is Amo’s fault, but his behavior warranted discipline and possibly firing before the crash ever occurred.