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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs