The parents of Lucía Vivar, in a file image. / SUR

Judge orders Adif to compensate parents of toddler found dead on Pizarra train track in 2017

The parents of the missing three-year-old, who complained that rail traffic was not suspended and that the station’s security cameras were not checked thoroughly, were awarded 176,239 euros by the court

JUAN CANO / ÁLVARO FRÍAS Malaga

Spain’s national railway infrastructure company, Adif, has been ordered by a court to pay the parents of a three-year-child, who was found dead on a railway track near Pizarra in 2017, the sum of 176,239 euros in damages.

The body of Lucía Vivar was found on 27 July 2017 some 4,200 metres from Pizarra station and, after the criminal case was filed finding that she was hit by a train without the involvement of third parties being proved, the parents of the child resorted to a civil case to claim that the search for the minor was not carried out with proper diligence.

And a national High Court judge has agreed with them.

Saint's day celebration

On the night of the incident the child had celebrated the saint’s day of her grandmother, Ana, with her family at a bar in Pizarra station. The girl, who had just turned three, was playing with her cousins when, in a split second, everyone lost sight of her and she disappeared.

The parents insisted to SUR that they were not seeking compensation, but that a court agreed with them because they considered that the search was not carried out correctly. Their arguments were that the station's security cameras were not checked properly; the morning rail traffic was not suspended, despite the fact that the girl was still missing; and the train that supposedly hit her ran "on sight" - at a reduced speed that would allow it to stop at any time - only in Pizarra station and not in a wider section of the line.

The family's claim was halted until criminal proceedings were completed, which happened in October 2018, when the Provincial Court confirmed that there was no evidence of the participation of third parties and the investigation concluded that the cause of death was the blow caused by being hit by the train.

Sufficient diligence

Once the criminal case was dismissed, the civil case was reopened. Adif rejected the parents' request for compensation - which implicitly said that they had not acted with sufficient diligence - and the case ended up in the National High Court.

The judge placed the responsibility on Adif (in charge of the railway infrastructure) and not on Renfe (the train operator) because Lucía was not a user of the railway service and disappeared at Pizarra station.

The ruling, which can be appealed, criticised Adif for "the lack of collaboration in the search for the child" and the Seville railway security centre for not properly checking the security camera recordings at the Pizarra station, which would have facilitated the location of the minor.

Initially the "centre reported that nothing was seen in the recordings but later, when it was too late, it confirmed that the girl was spotted in an image" walking towards the train tracks, in the direction of Álora. The court ruling added: "It would have been enough to view the images recorded for just 10 minutes, specifically from 11.30pm to 11.40pm, since that was the time period in which the child disappeared, and that viewing should have been carried out with the diligence and thoroughness that the matter required."

The ruling also points out that, although the suspension of rail traffic would have been a "very drastic" measure, it was justified taking into account that it was possible for the minor to walk on the tracks and, therefore, "there was a risk to people's lives."