December 13, 2013
‘Train driver doesn’t remember accident’
Lawyer claims Julio Benítez is not able to reconstruct what happened before Saturday crash
Julio Benítez, the driver of the Sarmiento train that crashed on Saturday at Once station leaving 99 injured, last night told Federal Judge Ariel Lijo he was “unable to reconstruct” the moments before the accident, his lawyer repeated to reporters outside the Central Courthouse last night.
“He only remembers flashes” of what happened Saturday morning, attorney Valeria Corbacho said.
"I don't recall having technical problems with the train, it was working properly as long as I remember," Benítez allegedly told the judge.
At press time, Benítez’s legal status remained unclear, but he will remain in custody. He had been discharged from the hospital earlier in the day and was questioned by Lijo in court.
Meanwhile, fingers continued to be pointed two days after the crash.
The Nation’s Audit General (AGN) Leandro Despouy said measures have been implemented by Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo to improve train services but “they have not able to reverse the deteriorating trend” of the railway system.
Meanwhile, the legal representative of the crash victims took aim at La Fraternidad engine drivers’ union for its alleged responsibility for the accident.
“It was a deliberate incident with mafia-like characteristics,” said Gregorio Dalbón. The union, he said, was “capable of killing 50 people to send the government a
Referring to Saturday’s events, Despouy said that the frequency of these types of accidents was “alarming.”
“These episodes go beyond explanation, imagination, beyond what’s tolerable,” the AGN head said.
Despouy, a Radical (UCR) Party leader and former president of the UN Human Rights Commission, also argued that these kinds of events end up generating “social trauma,” creating a general fear of riding trains.
His remarks were improvements as Randazzo’s office demanded accountability for the latest improvements carried out by the the UGOMS operations unit that runs the Mitre and Sarmiento train lines.
Resolution 1210/2013, signed last Wednesday but published yesterday in the Official Gazette, asks Metrovías and Ferrovías train companies— who are currently operating the UGOMS emergency unit — to inform what improvements were carried out following investment by the national administration.
The crash victims’ attorney aimed at La Fraternidad railway union for its alleged responsibility in the accident in which the Plate 5 carriage crashed into a wall at the Once station.
“Maybe there’s something deliberate. These people (referring to La Fraternidad union leaders) are capable of anything. We now have the opportunity to investigate once and for all this union mafia,” lawyer Gregorio Dalbón said yesterday.
Dalbón urged judicial authorities to investigate what he called the “third leg” of the Sarmiento line accident — that is, the union’s responsibility “that was not investigated” in the Once tragedy nor in this year’s crash in the Greater Buenos Aires district of Castelar, when three people died.
The government is not holding to the sabotage theory but does not rule the possibility out, Security Secretary Sergio Berni said.
‘He didn’t steal the video’
Earlier, the wife of train driver Julio Benítez denied he had tried to steal a hard drive located in the driver’s cabin that contained data about the crash.
“It’s a lie to say that he stole the video,” Susana Vargas said.
Benítez has been a driver for 25 years, Vargas added. He has witnessed “11 deaths” while driving, most of them suicides in which people jumped in front of oncoming trains.
Union figureheads suggested that the national government “planted evidence” to incriminate the train driver.
La Fraternidad spokesman Horacio Caminos asked Randazzo “not to lie.”
Herald with DyN, Télam