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Spanish train driver found on phone at time of derailment


15:09, July 31, 2013

MADRID, July 30 (Xinhua) -- The driver of a train that derailed last week killing 79 people was speaking on the phone when the accident occurred, a Spanish court said Tuesday.

Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, the train driver, received a call on his work phone in the cabin, not his personal cellphone, from the rail company Renfe to discuss the route he needed to follow when the crash happened, the Galician Superior Court of Justice said in a statement.

The Renfe employee on the telephone "appears to be a controller," the statement said.

"From the contents of the conversation and from the background noise it seems that the driver (was) consulting a plan or similar paper document," it added.

The analysis of the train's data recorders also showed that the train was driving at 192 km per hour -- almost twice the speed limit -- in the minutes before the crash happened.

At the moment of the derailment, the speed had fallen to 153 km after the driver tried to brake, according to the initial reading of the so-called black boxes.

Garzon, 52, admitted in a closed-door hearing Sunday that he took the curve too fast, blaming it a momentary lapse, local media reports said.

The driver, who has been with Renfe for 30 years, was charged with 79 counts of reckless homicide and released under court supervision.

Last Wednesday, the train that was carrying 218 passengers hurtled off the tracks just before arriving at Santiago de Compostela in north-western region of Galicia. Sixty-six people are still hospitalized and 15 remain in critical condition.

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