Spain Train Derailment: Driver on Phone With Railway Staff at Time of Crash (VIDEO)

The driver of a train that was derailed last week in Spain killing 79 passengers was on a cell phone at the time of the crash.

Spain train crash
Rescue workers pull victims from a train crash near Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. |

Information from data recorders has confirmed that the driver involved in the train crash last week was talking on the phone to railway staff when the crash occurred. Court records revealed that the train was traveling at a speed of 95 MPH over a curb, nearly twice the recommended speed.

The train was nearing the end of a six-hour trip between Madrid and Ferrol last Wednesday when high speeds caused the train to fly off tracks, sending train cars crashing into a concrete wall. The train's driver, Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, was charged Sunday with multiple charges of negligent homicide.

The train was carrying 218 passengers at the time of incident. Some train cars caught fire as a result of the impact. According to passenger's who overheard Amo directly after the incident occurred, the driver was aware that he needed to slow down but claimed that he was unable to brake soon enough to reach the recommended speed limit.

"He told us that he wanted to die," resident Evaristo Iglesias, who accompanied the injured driver to safer ground, told Antena 3 television. "He said he had needed to brake but couldn't."

"'I don't want to see this, I want to die,' that's what he said repeatedly," Iglesias recalled. "'I had to brake down to 80 and couldn't."

Amo was released without bail earlier this week although his license to operate a train has been suspended for at least the next six months. Steve Harrod, a railroad transportation expert at Ohio's University of Dayton, believes that Amo may not have been completely at fault if his phone call was part of his required duties.

"It's possible that the driver's phone conversation -- which apparently was part of his official capacity as a driver -- distracted him and he missed the transition from automatic to driver control," Harrod told CNN. "He may have been unaware he was in control of the train and realized, 'oh, no, we're headed for a curve.' If that's true, I really don't think it was his fault."

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