Train Driver On Phone At Time of Spanish Crash: Investigators

Investigators in the Santiago de Compostela train crash revealed that the driver was on the phone at the time of the crash.


A passenger train passes by the wreckage of the train crash in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. (Source: Reuters)

Investigations continue in the train crash in Santiago de Compostela in Spain, which claimed the lives of 79 people.  Today, Spanish investigators revealed details from the train's "black box" recorders, which offered insights on the moments leading into the crash.  Much like airplanes, trains, especially those capable of high speeds like the one in Santiago de Compostela, have "black box" recorders which are designed to record instrument data, including the speed of the train, when brakes are applied, and any technical problems that may arise.  Such "black boxes" are proving key to the investigation in the Spanish train crash, one of the worst the country has seen in decades.

Furthermore, investigators revealed through interviews that, at the time of the train crash, train driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo was on the phone with an official at RENFE, the Spanish national rail company, as well as consulting a document at his station.  Such actions may have been a key factor in the derailment, for he was likely not paying attention to the rail at the time.  Garzon, who has admitted to his mistakes recently and is in poor shape from the accident, was charged with multiple counts of negligent homicide by the Spanish courts. 

The "black boxes" themselves revealed the final moments of the train crash instrumentally.  Before the crash, the train was running at approximately 119 mph in the moments before the train crash, well above the rail speed limit of 50 mph in that section of the track.  Garzon applied the brakes to the train only seconds before the crash, which brought it down to 95 mph, but still caused the train to derail.  According to RENFE officials, brakes are supposed to be applied by train drivers at least 2.5 miles before entering a curve, especially at high speeds.