News / Europe

Spanish Disaster Driver Grew Up With Trains

An injured man, identified by Spanish newspapers El Pais and El Mundo as the train driver Francisco Jose Garzon, is helped by a policeman after a train crashed near Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, July 24, 2013.
An injured man, identified by Spanish newspapers El Pais and El Mundo as the train driver Francisco Jose Garzon, is helped by a policeman after a train crashed near Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, July 24, 2013.
Reuters
Francisco Garzon, driver of the train that crashed at high speed in one of Spain's worst railway accidents, grew up around trains and spent his whole life working with them.
 
At least 78 people died after the train jackknifed into a concrete wall on Wednesday a few kilometers before the station in Santiago de Compostela, a pilgrim destination and capital of the northwestern region of Galicia.
 
Garzon, who walked away bleeding heavily from a gash to the head, survived. In shock and using an expletive, the seasoned driver hoped for no deaths and feared for his conscience.

Watch: video footage of train accident 
 
Spain Train Accidenti
X
July 25, 2013 2:12 PM
Dramatic video released Thursday shows the moment a train in northern Spain jumped the tracks, killing 77 people and injuring more than 140.

Son of a railway worker, Garzon grew up in a small Galician town known as the cradle of the region's rail industry. He lived in housing built for railway workers and went to a school run by state train firm Renfe.
 
In his hometown of Monforte de Lemos, people said the 52-year-old who has worked three decades with Renfe, and more than 10 as a driver, was known for being sensible and reliable.
 
They were asking why a highly qualified driver with his work history would have taken a sharp curve at over twice the speed limit, derailing the train shortly after taking the controls.
 
“He was a great guy, one of the best,” said Maria Montero, standing at the door of one of the Renfe-owned workers' cottages where Garzon grew up. She had known Garzon since he was a child.
 
“He was sensible and very good at his job, we don't know what could have happened. He was very competent,” said Julia Morais, 52, walking alongside the railway track with her mother.
 
Investigations into the cause of the accident focused on why this experienced driver did not slow down as he entered the known danger spot on the outskirts of Santiago.

  • A passenger train passes by a wrecked train engine at the site of the train crash in Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, July 26, 2013. 
  • Luis Verde Remeseiro, director of the Hospital Clinico de Santiago de Compostela, talks to journalists in front of the hospital in Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, July 26, 2013. 
  • Rail workers clear the tracks next to a wrecked train engine at the site of the train crash in Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, July 26, 2013. 
  • A passenger train passes by a wrecked train engine at the site of the train crash in Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, July 26, 2013. 
  • A crane removes a carriage from the tracks at the site of a train crash near Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, July 25, 2013. 
  • A relative of one of the victims of the train crash reacts in Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, July 25, 2013. 
  • Victims receive help after a train crashed near Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, July 24, 2013. 
  • Rescue workers pull victims from a train crash near Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, July 24, 2013. 
  • Emergency personnel respond to a train derailment in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, July 24, 2013.
  • Emergency personnel treat survivors after a train derailment in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, July 24, 2013.
  • Emergency personnel respond to a train derailment in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, July 24, 2013.
  • Emergency personnel at the scene of a train derailment in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, July 24, 2013.
  • Rescue workers pull victims from a train crash near Santiago de Compostela, Spain, July 24, 2013.
  • Rescue workers and officials are seen amongst the wreckage of the train crash near Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, early July 25, 2013. 
  • Relatives of the victims involved in the train accident react at a victims' information point in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, July 25, 2013. 

Sharp bend
 
The bend is on a part of the railway that changes from a high-speed track to a traditional track and drivers must slow the train down because there is no automatic braking system.
 
Garzon was under police arrest in hospital and police said they would question him as soon as he was well enough to give a statement. He suffered minor injuries in the crash and his mother spent the night with him in the hospital, press reports said.
 
A judge has opened an official investigation into the accident and police said at a news conference on Friday that Garzon is suspected of recklessness in the accident. But the judge has not formally charged him with a crime.
 
The driver was not available for comment and Reuters was not able to locate his family or determine whether he has a lawyer.
 
Garzon took control of the Madrid-Ferrol train from his colleague at the Ourense station, one stop before Santiago de Compostela, Renfe said, a common practice on long-haul journeys. He knew the line well, having driven it for a year.
 
The other driver then left the cabin to rest, as normal, Renfe said. Earlier in the day, Garzon had driven part of the outward journey from the Galician city of La Coruna to Madrid.
 
Security camera footage showed the train about 40 minutes after it left Ourense station traveling at high speed around the bend, flying off the track and crashing into a wall.
 
Just after the crash, Garzon spoke over the train's radio system to the railway control center and to emergency services.
 
In one of the conversations he said the train was going at 190 km per hour (120 mph) into the curve, where the speed limit is 80 km/h, according to transcripts published in local media.

Train driver Francisco Jose Garzon (R) is helped by two men after his train crashed near Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, July 24, 2013.
Train driver Francisco Jose Garzon (R) is helped by two men after his train crashed near Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, July 24, 2013.
Covered in blood
 
Pictures show the gray-haired, slight driver speaking into a mobile phone, his face covered in blood.
 
“I hope there are no dead, because this will weigh on my conscience,” Garzon said in one of the conversations, according to media reports of the transcripts.
 
In the past, Garzon posted entries on Facebook boasting of driving trains at high speeds but within the legal limit, said a source with knowledge of the matter. In one post he displayed a photograph of the train's speedometer at 200 km/h.
 
These boasts were common among train drivers, and that speed was normal for the type of train Garzon drove, the source said.
 
Garzon was driving a hybrid train on Spain's Alvia high-speed service that travels at a maximum of 250 km/h. The even faster AVE service runs trains that can travel upwards of 300 km/h.
 
In Monforte de Lemos, an industrial town of 20,000 with a railway heritage dating back to the 19th century, villagers spoke highly of the driver who was separated with no children.
 
They said he had started working for Renfe at a very young age, fuelling trains.
 
Garzon lived in the Galician city of La Coruna with his widowed mother who lost her other son, Garzon's brother, in a car accident, villagers said. But he maintained a flat in Monforte and often visited friends there.
 
“He was very kind, a good friend,” said Monforte newspaper stand owner Concepcion Rodriguez who had seen Garzon the day before the accident.

You May Like

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs