Investigators in fatal rail probe find tablet used by driver at time of crash

Of 179 injured in crash, 41 remain in hospital as last child receives all-clear

Judge Luis Aláez (second from left) and magistrates after examining the train wreck Wednesday.
Judge Luis Aláez (second from left) and magistrates after examining the train wreck Wednesday. Xoan Rey (EFE)

Wagon by wagon, searching through every yard of tangled wiring and twisted metal, police technical investigators on Tuesday located the corporate cellphone that the driver of an Alvia S/730 train was using as little as 11 seconds before the fatal rail accident in Galicia on July 24 that left 79 people dead and some 170 injured. The hunt took several hours but eventually the work telephone of Francisco José Garzón Amo was recovered.

The regional High Court of Galicia (TSJG) stated that the police had also found the tablet that Garzón used to download the route of the Alvia train from the state rail company Renfe. However, investigators could not confirm the device was the company model in Garzón's possession due to its state of repair.

During his testimony after the accident, prosecutors asked several times whether Garzón was using the tablet for entertainment purposes prior to the crash. The driver denied that accusation, saying that he only had the device open to consult the route.

During the search of the wrecked train, investigators also found human remains, personal effects and other material that was bagged up to add to the mountain of evidence at the disposal of Judge Luis Aláez. Only the front of the train, where Garzón's cockpit was located, remains more or less intact, despite a smashed windscreen.

It has been determined since the accident that Garzón was not under the influence of alcohol or any other substances. A toxological report ordered by Aláez also showed that the driver had not taken any medication that may have affected his ability to perform his duties. This corroborates the initial hospital analysis carried out immediately after the crash, to which Garzón voluntarily submitted.

Judge Aláez wants the conclusions of three separate investigations to be included in the case

The driver, who has been provisionally charged with 79 counts of negligent homicide, said that he had spoken with conductor Antonio Martín Marugán, who was in carriage two with a rail security guard at the time of the crash, for a minute and a half before the accident. Garzón told the court that he became "confused" and thought that he was at a different stage of the line. Garzón entered the A Grandeira tunnel in the municipality of Angrois at 179 kilometers an hour when the speed limit is set at 80.

Judge Aláez has asked that the conclusions of three separate investigative commissions be included in the ongoing case. The commissions have been convened by Renfe, the Public Works Ministry and the state-owned company responsible for the country's rail infrastructure, Adif.

The investigative panels were demanded by the leftist coalition Plural Left coalition and the Galician Nationalist Bloc, who opined that the governing Popular Party and the main opposition Socialist Party "share responsibility for the deficient state of Galician infrastructure."

The chairman of Renfe, Julio Gómez-Pomar, and Public Works Minister Ana Pastor are due to address Congress on Thursday and Friday to explain the accident.

Of the 178 injured passengers attended to by emergency services on the night of July 24, 41 remain hospitalized in centers in Galicia. Seven are still listed as being in critical condition. The last remaining child in intensive care has been moved to a different ward.

Since last weekend, 13 patients have been given the all-clear to leave hospital. Only one of the 79 fatalities died in the aftermath of the accident, four days after being admitted to hospital in Santiago de Compostela.


More information

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS