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Spain motorman admits excessive speed to judge

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A CORUNA, Spain, July 29 (UPI) -- The driver of the train that crashed in Spain admitted to a judge he was going too fast on a curve, as the death of a U.S. citizen raised the death toll to 79.

Motorman Francisco Jose Garzon acknowledged in the closed hearing Sunday night his high-speed train was going nearly 120 mph when it careered off the rails at the curve 2 1/2 miles from the Santiago de Compostela railway station, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported.

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The posted speed limit was 50 mph.

Garzon, 52, was charged with 79 counts of negligent homicide and charged for "a plurality of injuries, all of them committed with professional imprudence," officials said.

About 140 people were injured in the Wednesday accident. Twenty-two people -- including two children -- were listed in critical condition early Monday.

The accident was Spain's deadliest train crash since 1944.

Garzon, who arrived at the High Court of Justice of Galicia in police custody, had declined to make a statement to police, El Pais said.

It was not immediately clear if Garzon had a lawyer.

The motormen's union said it would offer Garzon legal assistance, saying systemic problems, including poor track switches, contributed to the catastrophe, The Wall Street Journal reported.

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The judge gave Garzon a conditional release to his home. But he told Garzon not to leave the country and ordered him to surrender his passport.

Garzon also had his motorman's license revoked.

He will have to check in with the court weekly.

The death Sunday of a U.S. citizen hospitalized after the accident brought the death toll to 79, the Health Ministry said.

The citizen's name and U.S. hometown were not immediately released.

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