Spanish Train Driver Charged With 79 Deaths

The driver who was in charge when a train derailed last week in Spain has been formally charged with 79 counts of homicide by professional recklessness.

Homicide is a charge more serious than manslaughter, and implies that the driver, Francisco José Garzón Amo, was recklessly and knowingly endangering the lives of many when the train crashed. Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said Saturday that there were "rational indications" that the accident was the fault of Garzón Amo. Diaz refused to give any more details.

As we reported last week:

According to Spanish press, Francisco José Garzón Amo made a panicked call to the rail authorities ahead of the bend that prompted the crash. "I'm going at 190km/h," he apparently told them, sounding desperate. "I'm going to derail."

Garzón Amo was right: the train broke free of the rail and went flying, ripping doors from their frames. 80 passengers were killed, and dozens of victims are still in hospital. One American was amongst the dead.

After he'd discovered the extent of the crash, Garzón Amo reportedly said, "I messed up. I want to die. So many people dead, so many people dead."

Garzón Amo's Facebook page revealed that the 52-year-old driver had boasted about driving trains at high speeds before, and had joked about the fine his parent company would get if he was caught speeding.

Some have argued that charging Garzón Amo with the deliberate and unlawful murder of all the victims is premature. After all, the train's data recorders are still under investigation, and we still don't know whether the fault was partially down to the train's brakes — which should have stopped the train from flying off the rails, even if it was speeding prior to the crash.

The crash last week was the worst Spain has seen in decades, and has prompted debate about high-speed rail service. High-speed trains are rare in the United States, but the train that crashed Wednesday wasn't even the fastest inside of Spain. The White House has pushed for more high-speed rail networks, proposing spending billions on the project, but insists that safeguards would prevent a tragedy of this nature from happening.