The driver of the train that derailed in northwestern Spain and killed 79 people has admitted he was travelling at twice the speed limit before it hit a curve and crashed.
In a courtroom video released by a Spanish newspaper ABC on Thursday, Francisco Jose Garzon Amo told a judge he was at a loss to explain why he did not slow down before the July 24 crash.
“I can’t explain it,” Garzon said. “I still don’t understand how I didn’t see … mentally, or whatever. I just don’t know.”
The journey was “going fine” until the curve was upon him, he said. When the danger became clear, he thought, “Oh my God, the curve, the curve, the curve. I won’t make it.”
The edited video came from the 52-year-old’s appearance before the judge on Sunday.
The train had been going as fast as 192km/h shortly before the derailment and the driver activated the brakes “seconds before the crash”, reducing the speed to 153km/h, according to the court’s preliminary findings based on onboard recorders. The speed limit on the section of track where the crash happened was 80km/h.
‘It was inevitable’
In his evidence, Garzon said he was going far over the speed limit and ought to have started slowing down several kilometres before he reached the notorious curve.
Asked whether he used the brakes, Garzon replied, “The electric one, the pneumatic one … all of them. Listen, when … but it was already inevitable.”
Garzon said that after the derailment he called central control in Madrid about the accident.
The investigating judge is trying to establish whether human error or a technical failure caused the country’s worst rail accident in decades, and Garzon is at the center of the investigation.
The judge provisionally charged Garzon on Sunday with multiple counts of negligent homicide.
National rail company Renfe said Garzon was an employee with 30 years of experience who became an assistant driver in 2000 and fully qualified in 2003.
Garzon went back to court, voluntarily, to offer more evidence on Wednesday.
In that second appearance, he said he was talking by phone to the train’s on-board ticket inspector moments before the accident and hung up just before the train left the tracks. But that contradicted onboard recordings, which showed that Garzon was on the phone at the time of the derailment.
The court said the inspector would testify Friday as a witness. It said the judge has ruled that while the phone call was inappropriate it could not be considered a cause of the accident.