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Judge questions Spanish train driver as death toll from crash hits 79

A Spanish judge is questioning the train driver at the helm of the high speed rail crash that killed 79 people. A witness has come forward to claim that the driver told him he couldn't brake.

Train driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo was being questioned Sunday by an investigative judge as authorities tried to piece together what happened to cause Wednesday's high-speed train crash in Santiago de Compostela.

The death toll rose from 78 to 79 on Sunday after an injured American passenger died in the hospital, officials said.

The driver (pictured above) has not yet offered any official statements and chose to remain silent when police tried to interview him on Friday. But a local resident who had rushed to the scene of Wednesday's deadly crash said the driver talked about the moments before the incident.

Evaristo Iglesias said he spoke with Garzon and accompanied him to an area where the injured were being gathered.

"He said he had to brake to 80 [kilometers an hour] and couldn't, that he was going fast," Iglesias told private television station Antena 3. "He kept saying 'I want to die! I want to die! I don't want to see this! I want to die!' This is what he kept repeating."

The train carrying 218 passengers in eight cars was traveling well over the 50mph (80kph) speed limit before hitting a curve, derailing and slamming into a concrete wall.

Seeking answers

According to the Spanish rail agency, the brakes should have been applied two and half miles before the curve.

Garzon is being held by police on suspicion of negligent homicide, but he has not been formally charged. Investigators first must figure out whether Garzon failed to apply the brakes or whether there was a technical problem.

Garzon arrived at Santiago de Compostela's main courthouse at 6:15pm (local time) on Sunday. It was unclear how long the questioning would take, and the judge was not expected to comment on the proceedings.

Mourning

Spain is mourning the loss of 79 people, with Sunday services being held nationwide in remembrance of the victims.

Families in France, Algeria, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, France, Italy, Mexico and the United States have been affected by the tragedy.

On Monday, a large funeral Mass will take place in Santiago de Compostela, which both the prime minister and royal family are expected to attend.

Seventy people remain in the hospital due to injuries from the crash, and 22 of them are still in critical condition.

tm/dr (AP, AFP, Reuters)