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article imageSpain crash: Train driver should've applied brakes 4 km earlier

By Anne Sewell     Jul 27, 2013 in World
Santiago De Compostela - If the driver of the train that crashed in Santiago de Compostela had applied the brakes just four kilometers before taking the curve, the accident would not have happened. (Updated.)
This was stated on Friday by the president of state rail infrastructure company Adif, Gonzalo Ferre. Ferre places the blame for the deadly crash firmly at driver Francisco José Garzón’s door.
EFE news agency interviewed Ferre on Friday where he said that “four kilometers before the location of the accident, [the driver] is notified that he must reduce his speed, because as he comes out of the tunnel he has to be going at 80 [km/h].”
According to Ferre, all the safety systems on the train were working correctly and the driver would have had a route map with all of the speed limits clearly marked on it.
“If not,” Ferre added, “he would be just another passenger.”
The latest statements confirm what the security camera footage showed - that the train was going way too fast on a sharp corner.
On top of this information, the president of the rail company Renfe, Julio Gómez-Pomar, told Antena 3 on Friday morning that the train driver had passed the point where the accident happened more than 60 times, and as such should have an “exhaustive” knowledge of the line.
Of the many people injured in the accident, four were discharged from hospital on Friday, leaving 80 persons still under observation.
Efforts continued on Friday to identify the victims of the crash, and authorities lowered the death toll from 80 to 78.
According to Prime MInister Mariano Rajoy, on the second of three days of official mourning declared by the Spanish government, the “priority task” of identifying the bodies was nearly complete. The identification process was aided by the Spanish DNI identity card system, which includes fingerprints.
Reportedly 72 of the 78 bodies have now been positively identified. However, DNA testing is required for the remaining bodies, due to severe injuries, and this will take a few more days. Officials are hoping to announce the official list of victims next week.
Those victims that have been identified have been handed over to their families on Friday. A team of doctors, police officers and psychologists are on hand for grief counseling for relatives.
A breakdown of Spanish victims by their home provinces showed that 16 came from A Coruña, followed by 11 from Madrid and five from Cádiz. An American, an Algerian, a Mexican and a French national were also among the dead, according to local officials.
A convention center has been converted into a temporary morgue by volunteers from the Red Cross and a legal office there allows for the necessary paperwork to be quickly dealt with. This permits families to make their arrangements as soon as possible, as in Spain funerals are usually held a day or two after a death.
Among the tragedy, some positive stories are emerging, as a young girl who was in a critical condition has improved sufficiently to be taken out of intensive care into a normal ward. This leaves 31 of the victims in a critical condition including three children.
The train driver, Garzón, who suffered light injuries in the incident, has, not surprisingly, exercised his right to refuse to make a statement to police.
The judge supervising the investigation has ordered police to secure the train's black box, as well as reports, videos, documents and other evidence relating to the accident.
In contrast to the AVE high-speed trains, whose braking systems kick in automatically should a train be traveling too fast on a particular section of the track, the train in question would only sound an alarm if the train exceeds speeds of 200km/h.
Investigations will focus on this aspect of the safety systems on the Alvia Intercity trains, where it is the responsibility of the driver alone to control the velocity of the train, even though speed warnings do sound should the train be traveling too fast.
With the sheer horror and severity of the current incident, changes appear to be necessary.
Digital Journal reported on Friday that the media had uncovered a controversial post on a Facebook page held by Garzón, in which he joked about driving the train at high speed.
Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said Saturday "He [Garzón] has been detained since 7:40pm on Thursday for the alleged crimes of reckless homicide."
A suspect can be detained for a maximum of 72 hours before being heard by a judge, according to Spanish law.
"There are reasonable grounds to consider that he may have been responsible for what happened, which must be established by a judge and the investigation which has been opened," Diaz added.
Major train crash in Spain
Major train crash in Spain
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