A scuffle during the trial of men accused of causing a train crash in Spain in 2013 | Spain

The trial of two men accused of causing the deaths of 80 people in Spain’s deadliest train accident in decades has begun, with one of the accused being beaten as tensions boiled outside the courtroom.

Francisco José Garzón, who was driving the high-speed train when it crashed near the northwestern Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela on July 24, 2013, faces four years in prison if convicted, as does Andrés Cortabitarte, former security director with the Spanish police. state railway infrastructure company, Adif.

The pair are charged with 80 counts of manslaughter by gross professional negligence, 145 offenses of injury and one offense of damages.

Cortabitarte entered the court through a back door to avoid facing journalists and victims of the crash, who were demonstrating in front of the building. But a protester punched him in the back as he later left through the front door. Spanish national television broadcast video footage of protesters shouting insults at him.

A spokesman for the victims’ families told El País that while they were against any form of violence, “you have to understand the pain of a father who lost his daughter and feels helpless”.

An investigation into the derailment, which injured 145 people, showed that the train was traveling at a speed of 179 km/h on a route with a speed limit of 80 km/h when it left the track.

All 13 wagons derailed and at least three caught fire. Some were thrown 15 meters off the track and landed on the other side of a retaining wall next to a row of houses.

The investigation also revealed that Garzón answered a call from the conductor a few seconds before the crash.

The driver’s lawyer, Manuel Prieto, said Wednesday that missing signposts on the section of the railway where the accident occurred and other inadequate safety measures had caused the derailment, not his client’s phone call. Neither Cortabitarte nor its representatives commented on the matter.

Adif confirmed days after the crash that an automatic braking system had been installed on most of the track running from Madrid to Santiago de Compostela, but said coverage stopped 5km (3 miles) south of the accident site. which put a heavier burden on the driver.

A group representing the victims of the crash, the Alvia 04155 Victims Platform, said it expected the trial to show that Adif bore more responsibility for the derailment than the driver.

“The only way, unfortunately, to prevent it from happening again is for Adif to be convicted,” Jesús Dominguez, a spokesperson for the platform, told Voz de Galicia newspaper.

The association also said it had taken far too long for the case to go to court. “Some victims and relatives have died over the years. There will never be justice for them and unfortunately nothing can be done,” the group said in a statement from Spain’s state news agency EFE.

The trial, which will be held at a cultural center, is expected to last for months, with more than 700 witnesses and experts taking the stand.

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