EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

World/National News

July 31, 2013

Investigators: Train driver was on phone at time of crash

MADRID (AP) — The driver was on the phone with a colleague and reading a document as his train barreled ahead at 95 mph — almost twice the speed limit. Suddenly, a notorious curve was upon him.

He hit the brakes too late.

The train, carrying 218 passengers in eight carriages, hurtled off the tracks and slammed into a concrete wall, killing 79 people.

On Tuesday, investigators looking into the crash announced their preliminary findings from analysis of the train’s data-recording “black boxes,” suggesting that human error appears to be the cause of Spain’s worst railway disaster in decades.

The derailment occurred near Santiago de Compostela, a city in northwestern Spain, late last Wednesday. Some 66 people injured in the crash are still hospitalized, 15 of them in critical condition.

The accident cast a pall over the city, which is the last stop for the faithful who make it to the end of the El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route that has drawn Christians since the Middle Ages. The crash occurred on the eve of annual festivities at the shrine, which subsequently were canceled.

The disaster also stunned the rest of Spain, with Spanish royals and political leaders joining hundreds of people in Santiago de Compostela’s storied 12th-century cathedral Monday night to mourn the dead.

According to the investigation so far, train driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo received a call from an official of national rail company Renfe on his work phone in the cabin, not his personal cellphone, to tell him what approach to take toward his final destination.

The Renfe employee on the telephone “appears to be a controller,” said a statement from a court in Santiago de Compostela, where the investigation is based. “From the contents of the conversation and from the background noise it seems that the driver (was) consulting a plan or similar paper document.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
World/National News

Latest U.S. News
Raw: Obamas Attend Easter Service Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Beau Biden Plans 2016 Run for Del. Governor Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups
Latest World News
Raw: Pope Greets Easter Tourists on Popemobile Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Today in History for April 18th Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez Dead at 87 Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Raw: Pope Francis Performs Pre-easter Ritual Raw: Bulgarian Monastery Dyes 5000 Easter Eggs
Photos of the Week