THE train driver at the centre of a trial over the 2013 Alvia 730 crash in Spain’s Galicia region made his first statements in court on Thursday. A tearful Francisco Garzón asked for forgiveness from the victims of the accident, which cost the lives of 80 people and injured 145 more. 

“I ask for the victims to forgive me,” he said at the trial in Santiago about the accident, the worst in Spain in the last 80 years. “It was an accident, I couldn’t avoid it.” 

During his appearance in court, where he is facing charges of homicide and injuries caused by negligence, he insisted that there was no sign on the route from Santiago to Ourense indicating that he had to slow down from 200 to 80 kilometres, ahead of the dangerous bend where the train would end up derailing. 

Garzón had only taken the route nine times in each direction, and admitted that a phonecall from the conductor on the train – which he was obliged to take according to the rules of state rail operator Renfe – distracted him. 

“I lost my bearings with the call,” he told the court. “I lost my spatial awareness.” 

Garzón also denounced the fact that he had been taken out of hospital and put in the cells “because the interior minister was coming the next day”. Garzón was seriously injured in the crash, and had broken ribs and a head wound, among other issues.

“It would have been impossible for me to have recovered enough to have left the medical centre,” he complained to the court. “It’s criminal that they would take me out of the hospital with three broken ribs and a tube that they had put in me to drain the blood from the pleura,” he added, in reference to the thin layer of tissue that covers the lungs.

The train driver was only taking questions from his lawyer, who argued that Garzón had not been given sufficient training, that the signage was insufficient along the line, and that the proper safety systems were not in place. 

Also on trial is the former security director at the public rail infrastructure company Adif, Andrés Cortabitarte. After the first day of the trial on Wednesday, Corabitarte was confronted by angry relatives of the victims, and was actually assaulted by one of them.

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