Spain train driver on tape during questioning: ‘I won’t make it’

MADRID — The driver of a train that derailed and killed 79 people in Spain told a judge that he was going more than twice the speed limit and didn’t see a dangerous curve in the tracks until it was too late, according to an audio recording of the driver’s interrogation posted online Wednesday.

“In the curve, by the time I saw it [I realized] I won’t pass it,” driver Francisco Garzon says on a recording obtained by the newspaper El Pais. “By then everything was activated and I saw that no, no, no -- I won’t make it.”

Garzon, 52, was questioned by a Spanish judge Sunday and provisionally charged with 79 counts of reckless homicide. El País said the recording it posted on its website was from that weekend interrogation.


It is the first time Garzon’s own version of events has been made public.

In the audio, he admits to entering a sharp curve at more than twice the recommended speed of 50 mph, and is asked why he didn’t brake sooner.

“I tell you sincerely, I don’t know. I’m not so crazy that I wouldn’t apply the brakes,” Garzon replies in Spanish. His voice trails off occasionally on the crackly recording, and the judge asks him to repeat himself.

“It was already inevitable,” the driver says, adding that “it’s difficult,” although it is not clear whether he is referring to the interrogation or his ability to drive at high speed through a curve. “The aftereffects of what happened are enormous and will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

Garzon tells the judge that the train was traveling about 112 to 118 mph in a 50 mph zone. Data from the train’s so-called “black box” recorders, released Tuesday, confirmed that the train reached a top speed of 119 mph and that Garzon applied the brakes only seconds before the crash. The train was still hurtling along at 95 mph when it jumped the tracks and smashed into a concrete wall.

The data recorders also revealed that Garzon was on the phone at the time of the accident, apparently working out his route with a train dispatcher.

In the audio posted Wednesday, Garzon says he had no alcohol to drink that day, only coffee.

The train derailed July 24 near the northwestern Spanish pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela. In addition to those killed, dozens more remain in the hospital, many in critical condition. It’s the deadliest train accident in Spain in 40 years.

After his interrogation Sunday, Garzon had his passport and driver’s license confiscated and was released on bail, awaiting trial.


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