The engineer operating the Argentine train that crashed last week killing 51 passengers blamed the brakes for failing, after he repeatedly warned they were faulty, a judicial source said Saturday.
The engineer, Marcos Cordoba, is being investigated by police, but was free after being treated at a hospital.
He told police he reported brake problems to his supervisors, but that he was ordered to continue the trip that ended in the third-worst rail accident in Argentine history.
Another 703 people were injured on Wednesday, when the train slammed into a bumper at Buenos Aires’ Terminal 11. The train carried about 2,000 people.
Among the injured was the 28-year-old engineer, who had to be cut out of the locomotive cab by firefighters. He was hospitalized for cuts on his face and other injuries, but was out of danger.
The judicial source said Cordoba told investigators: “At each station he advised the dispatcher by radio that he had problems with the brakes.”
He reportedly said he was told to keep going.
Immediately after the accident, Argentine National Transportation Secretary Juan Pablo Schiavi said recordings between the engineer and dispatcher would be reviewed by the authorities.
Cordoba is being investigated for what Argentine law describes as the crime of “guilty damage” without an intent to cause harm.
Blood tests showed he had not been drinking or using drugs. He also had a good work record.
Cordoba was free after authorities determined he represented “no flight risk and there is no possibility he might hinder the investigation,” the judicial source said.
Cordoba reportedly said a mechanical failure must have caused the problem because “when the brake is actuated, there’s a valve that makes a noise and he did not hear it,” the judicial source said.
An Argentine association that represents government employees accused the government on Friday of letting passenger rail infrastructure fall into disrepair.
A statement from the group said the government ignored an audit “that showed the deficient and criminal state of preservation” of the Sarmiento rail line, where the accident occurred.