Santiago train crash judge orders investigation into warnings over fatal curve

Ourense chief mechanic sent email to superiors about "risks" two weeks before stretch of track was opened

State railways operator Renfe has been given three days to submit all the documentation it possesses over the warnings issued by the chief mechanic in Ourense, José Ramón Iglesias Mazaira, to his superiors about the “risks” posed by the fateful curve at Angrois, near Santiago, where an Alvia train derailed last July, killing 79 passengers and injuring a further 179.

The lawyer representing the driver of the train, Francisco José Garzón, who is the only person so far to have been placed under preliminary charges over the accident, handed an email from the mechanic to Renfe managers to investigating Judge Luis Aláez on Wednesday.

The message is dated December 26, 2011, two weeks before the Santiago-Ourense rail line was opened. In it were proposals to reduce or eliminate the dangers of the sharp curve at Angrois, which Garzón entered at more than twice the 80km/h speed limit believing he was on a different stretch of track. No warning signs were in place on the track and on-board security systems failed to automatically apply the train’s brakes.

Both Renfe and Adif, the public company responsible for the state rail infrastructure, have denied being forewarned of the dangers posed by the curve, where trains are required to brake to 80km/h from 200km/h. Aláez officially named five Adif employed as suspects in the case, as well as the entire 22-member board of the firm. However, this move was quashed by the A Coruña provincial court.

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