Santiago de Compostela train crash

Spanish train crash driver held and accused of 'recklessness'

Spanish train crash driver under police guard in hospital

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 July, 2013, 10:11am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 July, 2013, 2:20am

Spanish police have detained the driver of a speeding train that crashed in the nation's deadliest rail disaster in decades, accusing him of criminal recklessness.

The country was in mourning after Wednesday's tragedy, which police said left 78 dead, including foreigners, and many more injured.

The 52-year-old driver faces criminal accusations including "recklessness" over the crash near the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela, said Jaime Iglesias, police chief in the northwestern Galicia region. The driver, who reportedly boasted of his love for speed online, was detained in hospital.

A judge ordered police to question the driver, identified by the media as Francisco Jose Garzon Amo. He has not yet been charged with any offence.

Spain's leading El Pais newspaper said the driver had been unable to brake in time.

Investigation sources told El Pais that the driver, while still trapped in his cab, told railway officials by radio the train had taken the curve at 190km/h - more than double the 80km/h speed limit.

El Pais said the driver reported that a speed alarm had been activated on his control panel, adding: "He tried to brake without being able to avoid the tragedy."

The train was carrying more than 200 passengers and crew. Six of the dead have yet to be identified. Local officials said four foreigners were killed - an American, an Algerian, a Mexican and a French national.

Media reports described Garzon Amo, one of two drivers on the train, as a speed freak who once gleefully posted a picture on his Facebook page of a train speedometer at 200 km/h.

A caption read: "I am on the edge, I can't go faster or else I will be fined."

Spanish newspapers quoted another of his posts as saying: "What fun it would be to race the Guardia Civil (police) and pass them, causing their radar to blow up hehehe."