Driver at centre of train crash probe in Spain released from hospital
SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, SPAIN (AP) - The injured driver of the Spanish train that derailed at high speed, killing 78 and injuring dozens more, was released from the hospital on Saturday, but he was still being held in a police station as the authorities increasingly focused on his culpability.
Mr Francisco Jose Garzon Amo was to appear before a judge by Sunday evening, a hotly awaited opportunity for him to give his explanation for Spain's deadliest train crash in decades. Mr Garzon has been under the microscope, with the country's railway agency saying it was his responsibility to brake before going into the high-risk curve where the train careered off the rails and smashed into a wall. It is still not clear whether the brakes failed or were never used, and Mr Garzon has remained mum so far.
"There is rational evidence to lead us to think that the driver could have eventual responsibility," Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz told reporters at the crash site near the Catholic pilgrimage town of Santiago De Compostela. He said Mr Garzon was now being held on suspicion of negligent homicide. The authorities had previously said he was detained on suspicion of recklessness.
Speaking later at the police station, the minister also said if Mr Garzon were to choose to give a statement to the police before testifying in front of a judge, his lawyer would be called. So far, the driver has opted to use his constitutional right to remain silent, "although he may change his mind on that", Mr Fernandez Diaz said.
The wreckage still remained near the site on Saturday, as passenger trains passed by. Black ribbons of mourning dotted the Santiago de Compostela and flags flew at half-staff. Makeshift shrines drew mourners to the city's cathedral.
Someone placed flowers on a bridge above the railroad tracks, with a note reading, "We are all in solidarity with the city of Santiago."
Mr Garzon had been expected to give a preliminary statement to judicial police as early as Thursday, but that process was delayed, reportedly due to health reasons. Earlier on Saturday, the justice department said Mr Garzon's first appearance before a judge had been postponed until Sunday.
A blood-soaked Mr Garzon was photographed after the Wednesday crash being escorted away from the wreckage, at first by civilians who had hurried to the scene of the accident and then by police, but it is not clear just what his medical status is. Unconfirmed media reports said that Mr Garzon had injured ribs.
The train's eight passenger carriages packed with 218 passengers blazed far over the speed limit into a curve and violently tipped over. Diesel fuel sent flames coursing through some cabins.
Investigators are examining recording devices from the train but have not officially said how fast it was going when it derailed.
An American passenger, Mr Stephen Ward, said he was watching the train's speed on a display screen in the carriage - and it indicated it was going 194kmh, more than double the 80kmh speed limit.
The president of Adif, the Spanish rail agency, said the driver should have started slowing the train 4km before the dangerous bend. He said signs clearly marked this point when the driver must begin to slow.