Driver of wrecked Spanish train arrested

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SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain -- Spanish police said yesterday they have arrested the driver of the train that sped through a curve and toppled over, killing 78 people, and plan to question him over suspected reckless driving.

As blame increasingly fell on the still-hospitalized driver, authorities located the train's so-called "black box" that is expected to shed further light on the disaster's cause.

Investigators said they would seek evidence of failings by the driver, Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, 52, as well as the train's internal speed-regulation systems in Wednesday's derailment.

The train company, Renfe, defended the driver yesterday, lauding what it called his exhaustive experience. But the country's railway agency, Adif, noted that the driver should have started slowing the train long before reaching the disastrous turn.

One American passenger injured on the train said he saw on a TV monitor 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, Stephen Ward, 18, said the train appeared to have accelerated, not decelerated.

And 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.

At the scene Friday, hundreds of onlookers watched as crews used a crane to hoist smashed and burned-up cars onto flatbed trucks to cart them away. Train traffic had resumed nearby.

Police lowered the death toll yesterday to 78, from 80, as forensic scientists matched body parts.

Amo was arrested Thursday night in the hospital. Photographs indicated he had suffered a head wound in the crash. He is under police guard but has yet to be interviewed.

Renfe said Amo is a 30-year employee of the state train company who became an assistant driver in 2000 and a fully qualified driver in 2003. Amo had driven trains past the spot of the accident around 60 times, officials said.

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Catholic Church authorities in Virginia identified the dead American as Ana Maria Cordoba, 47.

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