The driver facing charges for last week's deadly train derailment in northwestern Spain said here Wednesday that the telephone call he received minutes before the accident came from the on-board ticket inspector.
Francisco Jose Garzon, who remains free pending a likely trial on 79 counts of homicide, voluntarily appeared before investigating magistrate Luis Alaez to clarify the matter of the phone call.
The call came to light Tuesday when the judge issued a statement summarizing the information obtained from the train's black boxes.
The content of the conversation led Alaez to believe the communication originated with a dispatcher at state railway Renfe who called to give the driver instructions.
Garzon, however, identified the caller as the Renfe ticket inspector, who was riding in one of the passenger cars.
The roughly two-minute conversation was about which platform the train should use on arrival at Pontedeume station, Garzon told the magistrate.
The inspector, who suffered minor injuries in the crash, did not mention the phone call in the witness statement he gave authorities.
Under Renfe policy, communication en route between the driver and the ticket inspector should be limited to emergencies.
The train was moving at 192 kph (119 mph) during the driver's phone conversation and had slowed to 153 kph (95 mph) by the time of the derailment at a station on the outskirts of Santiago de Compostela, according to data from the black boxes.
Garzon admitted in his original statement to Judge Alaez that he was going at double the 80 kph (49 mph) speed limit on the curve in A Grandeira.
Sixty-one of the 150 people injured in the July 24 disaster remain hospitalized, 13 of them in critical condition, authorities said Wednesday. EFE