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Driver in fatal Santiago train crash faces up to four years in prison

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Driver in fatal Santiago train crash faces up to four years in prison
Photo: Miguel Riopa/AFP
08:10 CET+01:00
Public prosecutors on Tuesday called for a four-year jail term for the train driver involved in one of Spain's worst rail disasters, in which 80 people died in 2013.

Public prosecutors also ruled that families receive €42.9 million ($47.3 million) in compensation.

Francisco Jose Garzon Amo was driving the high-speed train that went off the rails and ploughed into a siding near the northwestern city of Santiago de Compostela on July 24th, 2013.

Investigators found that Garzon was talking on the phone shortly before the Alvia-type train crashed as it hurtled round a sharp bend at 179 kilometres per hour (110 mph) - more than twice the speed limit for that stretch of track.

The public prosecutor's office in the northwestern region of Galicia said in a statement it had recommended he be tried for 80 counts of reckless homicide and 144 counts of injury and receive a sentence of four years in jail and be banned from driving trains for six years.

"In terms of civil responsibility, for death, injuries and damages, the public prosecutor's office asks that the victims of the accident receive compensation of €42,898,962," the statement added.

Garzon is the only person facing charges over the accident, which has raised questions about the railway's safety systems. Judges interrogated several officials from the state railway company Adif but dropped charges against all of them.

Victims' families say the driver was not the only one responsible and have demanded a parliamentary commission to investigate the causes of the crash.

A court in Galicia wrapped up its investigation into the accident at the beginning of the month. It said experts had agreed that excessive speed was "the sole cause of the accident".

The court added there was no criminal liability for the fact that the track lacked the latest speed control systems.

"The direct and immediate cause, which decidedly set in motion the unfortunate accident... was excessive speed," the court said on October 7th when its probe ended.

But it acknowledged that "safety on the line could have been better."

The investigating judge will later rule on whether to put Garzon on trial.

Garzon was detained after the crash and provisionally charged but was later released pending a possible court case.

Last year he wrote a letter begging the forgiveness from the victims, saying he was "destroyed" by the tragedy.

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