TRAGEDY IN GALICIA

“I hope there are no deaths - they would weigh heavily on my conscience”

Train driver caught in wreckage of crash tells colleagues he was travelling twice the permitted speed

A wagon of a crashed train that killed at least 77 people is lifted at Angrois near Santiago de Compostela, Spain. / Pablo Blazquez Dominguez (Getty Images)

One of the drivers of the Alvia train that derailed on Wednesday in Santiago de Compostela, causing the deaths of at least 77 people, was trapped in the wreckage of the accident. Immediately after the crash, when he was still unaware of the severity of the accident, he described the events from his point of view via the radio link used to communicate with the nearby station.

The driver reportedly said via the radio that his back and his ribs hurt and that he was unable to escape from the driver’s compartment.

“We are only human! We are only human!” he is reported to have said, again and again, over the radio. “I hope that there are no deaths because they would weigh heavily on my conscience,” he added.

The train driver reportedly told his fellow rail employees that the train had taken the bend at 190km/h, before later mentioning a speed of 200km/h, only to return to his original version that the train was travelling at 190 km/h, sources from the investigation explained to EL PAÍS on Wednesday night.

The signals in the area where the accident took place indicated that trains must not travel at more than 80km/h, but the driver did not specify as to why the train was traveling at double that speed at the time of the crash. An investigation will have to determine whether a technical fault or human error was behind the tragedy. But, according to the statements made by the driver, the train did not brake sufficiently before the curve in the track, resulting in a speed that doubled that permitted in the area.

Regular users of the rail route, which runs between Madrid and Ferrol, know that corner well. The day that the section of the route was inaugurated, on December 10, 2011, the first train to carry passengers through it lurched heavily through the bend, throwing a number of passengers off balance. The people traveling on that inaugural journey made a number of comments about how sharp the corner was, saying that the train felt as if it was hardly moving during up until that particular corner, when the inertia of a change in direction was felt for the first time.

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