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Train Conducter Arrested in Spain After Crash Leaves 78 Dead

The driver of a train that derailed Wednesday in northwestern Spain, killing 78 people, is expected to make his first court appearance Sunday evening. The crash, the country’s worst train disaster in about 40 years, took place on a precarious curve between Ourense and Santiago de Compostela and has left the country in mourning.

According to The Guardian, conductor Francisco Garzón, 52, had a reputation among his colleagues of being a prudent and even sluggish conductor. When a train was late, his co-workers would often joke: “Here comes Garzón.” This is in contrast to a picture Garzón posted on his Facebook page showing his speedometer at 200 km/hr, to which a friend commented, “You’re going like the bloody clappers, lad. Brake.”

Although the hybrid-engine Alvia train that Garzón was driving is equipped and allowed to travel at that speed, the turn at which the accident occurred requires him to reduce his speed by more than half, to 80 km/hr. When the driver reached that bend, he was traveling at more than twice the permitted speed.

The Guardian:

Big money rests on how the disaster is viewed.

State-owned Renfe is in a consortium bidding for a €13bn (£11bn) contract to build a high-speed rail link in Brazil between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The daily El País newspaper reported that the terms of the tender excluded any companies that had “taken part in the operation of any high-speed train system where an accident had occurred” in the preceding five years.

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Though many questions regarding the responsibility of the government, which owns and operates the rail system, and the engineering of the tracks remain unanswered, Garzón was arrested Friday as he was released from the hospital. Since Spanish law allows a person to be charged only “three times the maximum for the most serious offense with which he is charged,” Garzón faces up to 12 years in prison for manslaughter.

You can watch video footage taken after the Spanish train crash here.

— Posted by Natasha Hakimi

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