Spain's ex-safety head blames driver for train crash which killed 80

AFP - [email protected] • 13 Oct, 2022 Updated Thu 13 Oct 2022 15:13 CEST
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A picture taken on July 24, 2013 shows derailed cars at the site of a train accident near the city of Santiago de Compostela. AFP PHOTO / OSCAR CORRAL (Photo by OSCAR CORRAL / AFP)

The former safety director at Spain's state rail operator ADIF, on trial over a deadly 2013 train derailment, on Thursday blamed the driver for the disaster, saying there was no problem with the track.


Prosecutors are seeking four-year prison sentences for the former director and the train's driver over their alleged roles in the accident, which killed 80 people and injured over 140 others.

They blame the July 24th 2013 accident near the northwestern city of Santiago de Compostela -- Spain's deadliest train tragedy since 1944 -- on human error as well as the railway's security systems.


But ADIF's former safety director, Andrés Cortabitarte, told the court the track where the accident happened was "100 percent safe".

"If it had not been, it would not have been put into service," he said as he took the stand for the first time.

The accident happened because the driver did not respect the speed limit, he added.

"He was the one who had to control (the speed), but he did not," Cortabitarte said.

At the time of the crash, the train was travelling at 179 kilometres (111 miles) per hour, more than twice the speed limit for that stretch of track, as it hurtled round a sharp bend on the outskirts of Santiago.

Cortabitarte also recalled that the driver had ended a phone call with the on-board conductor just moments before the train lurched off the rails.

"That's unthinkable... you can't do that," he said.

Train conductor Francisco Jose Garzón Amo (R) seen being evacuated after the train accident. (Photo by MONICA FERREIROS and XOAN A. SOLER / LA VOZ DE GALICIA / AFP)

When he took the stand last week, the driver, Francisco Garzón, acknowledged he was distracted by the phone call but said the track should have had signals warning him to reduce speed before the curve.

He tearfully apologised to the relatives of the victims.

Both Garzón and Cortabitarte have been charged with manslaughter by gross professional negligence.

The trial, which began on October 5th, is expected to run until February 10th.



AFP 2022/10/13 15:13

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