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Spanish minister requests to appear before Parliament over train disaster

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Madrid, Jul 30 (EFE).- Spanish Development Minister Ana Pastor on Tuesday requested permission to appear before an extraordinary session of the lower house of Parliament to brief lawmakers about her ministry's actions in the wake of this month's Santiago de Compostela train disaster.

The ministry said in a statement that similar requests have been made by the presidents of two companies it oversees, Julio Gomez-Pomar of the Renfe state-owned railway company and Gonzalo Ferrer of Spanish railway operator Adif.

Those requests have already been registered with the Congress of Deputies.

A high-speed Alvia train derailed on July 24 outside the northwestern Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela, killing 79 people and injuring more than 150 others.

The signals on the stretch where the accident occurred were operating properly at the time of the derailment and the train had been inspected earlier that day, Adif said.

The train's driver, Francisco Jose Garzon, told investigating Judge Luis Alaez that he lost track of his position and did not know where he was on the evening the accident occurred, sources close to the investigation told Efe.

Garzon, who has been charged with 79 counts of homicide and numerous other crimes, admitted that he was going at double the 80 kph (49 mph) speed limit on the curve in A Grandeira.

The driver told investigators that he "managed to" hit the brakes but it was too late.

Garzon acknowledged in his testimony Sunday that the accident was not caused by mechanical problems or the condition of the train, and he blamed "human error" for the deadly derailment.

The train went off the tracks along the route linking Madrid and the Atlantic coastal city of Ferrol.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/agencia-efe/130730/spanish-minister-requests-appear-parliament-over-train-disaster