A train passes the scene of the Wednesday train crash near Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
(Photo: Miguel Riopa, AFP/Getty Images)
Police on Friday arrested the driver of the train that crashed in northwest Spain and killed 78 passengers as investigators looked for further evidence for why the train was going twice the speed limit.
Local media in Spain, including the El Pais newspaper, reported that Francisco Jose Garzon Amo boasted on Facebook about how fast he could drive his train. In 2012 he posted: "I can't go any faster or they'll give me a fine."
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A speedometer with the needle on 125 mph was also posted, the reports said.
Garzon Amo was arrested on suspicion of reckless driving. The 52-year-old driver remains hospitalized following Spain's deadliest railway crash in decades.
Authorities located the train's so-called "black box" and are examining its recordings to see if it sheds further light on the cause of the Wednesday crash.
The chief of the train operator, Renfe, defended the driver Friday, lauding what it called his experience. But the country's railway agency, Adif, said the driver should have started slowing the train more than 2 miles before reaching the disastrous turn in Santiago de Compostela.
"Four kilometers before the accident happened he already had warnings that he had to begin slowing his speed, because as soon as he exits the tunnel he needs to be traveling at 80 kilometers (about 50 miles) per hour," Adif president Gonzalo Ferre said.
In an interview with The Associated Press, an American passenger injured on the train said he saw on a TV monitor screen inside his car that the train was traveling 121 mph seconds before the crash - far above the 50 mph speed limit on the curve where it derailed. The passenger, 18-year-old Stephen Ward, said the train appeared to have accelerated, not decelerated.
Gonzalo Ferre, president of the rail infrastructure company Adif, said the driver should have started slowing the train 2.5 miles before reaching a dangerous bend that train drivers had been told to respect.
"He already had warnings that he had to begin slowing his speed, because as soon as he exits the tunnel he needs to be traveling at 80 kilometers per hour," Ferre said.
At the scene, hundreds of onlookers watched as crews used a crane Friday to hoist smashed and burned-up cars onto flat-bed trucks to cart them away. The shattered front engine had been tipped back upright but remained resting beside the tracks, just yards from the passage of resumed train traffic.
Grieving families gathered for funerals near the site of the crash in Santiago de Compostela, a site of Catholic pilgrimage that had been preparing to celebrate its most revered saint, James, but those annual festivities were canceled Thursday.
El Pais reported that Garzón's Facebook profile was deleted on Thursday morning, but a profile belonging to someone with the same name and showing a picture of the speedometer was still able to be viewed on the social network on Friday morning. It was not clear whether the account was genuine, however. A photo was being carried on The Guardian's website. That picture could also not be verified.
Investigators in Spain have now taken possession of the "black boxes" of the train that hurtled at high speed along a curve and derailed, the Associated Press reported. The AP also reported that the number of killed in the crash has now been revised down to 78 from 80.
The driver is now a focus of the investigation into Spain's worst train disaster in decades and police there said that he would be questioned "as a suspect for a crime linked to the cause of the accident."