Spain trial over 2013 deadly train crash wraps up
A major trial wrapped up in Spain on Wednesday to determine responsibility for a 2013 high-speed train crash that killed 80 people, the country’s worst rail disaster in nearly eight decades.
Two men are in the dock over the accident — the driver, Francisco Garzon, and the former safety director at state rail operator ADIF, Andres Cortabitarte.
Prosecutors have called for each to face four years behind bars for “homicide due to gross professional negligence”.
Over 600 witnesses and experts were questioned by the court in the northwestern city of Santiago de Compostela since the high-profile trial got underway in October.
The court has not yet set a date for the verdict.
On July 24, 2013, a train travelling from Madrid veered off the tracks as it hurtled round a sharp bend on the outskirts of Santiago, a city in the region of Galicia.
It ploughed into a concrete siding, leaving 80 people dead — including 12 foreigners — and over 140 injured, making it Spain’s deadliest rail accident since 1944.
An investigation showed the train was traveling at 179 kilometres (111 miles) per hour, more than twice the speed limit for that stretch of track.
The probe also revealed the driver answered a phone call from the conductor just seconds before the train lurched off the rails.
When he took the stand the driver, Garzon, acknowledged he was distracted by the phone call but said the track should have had signals warning him to reduce speed before the curve.
He tearfully apologised to the relatives of the victims.
But ADIF’s former safety director, Cortabitarte, told the court the track where the accident happened was “100 percent safe”.
The accident happened because the driver did not respect the speed limit, he added.
In a sign of the anger felt by relatives of the victims, Cortabitarte was jeered as he left the court on the first day of the trial and one man punched him in the face.
A group representing victims of the crash, the Alvia 04155 Victims Platform, has said it expected the trial to show that ADIF bore more responsibility for the derailment than the driver.