MONFORTE DE LEMOS, Spain // Some paint him as a reckless man who boasted about driving his Spanish trains at massive speed before crashing one, leaving 78 people dead and 178 injured.
But Francisco Jose Garzon Amo's friends and neighbours paint him in a different light.
The grey-haired driver has not appeared in public since he was helped to stagger, with blood pouring down his face, away from the wreck near the north-western city of Santiago de Compostela on Wednesday night.
But, detained by the police, he has become the focus of speculation as a nation in mourning seeks to explain what caused its worst train disaster in nearly 70 years.
"He is an excellent professional. It is the first accident he has ever had," said Antonio Rodriguez, who joined the state rail company Renfe alongside Mr Garzon in 1982.
The two started out as young auxiliary workers refuelling the trains in Monforte de Lemos, a small town in a green valley an hour and half's drive from Santiago.
Mr Rodriguez is now the Galicia region railway workers' leader of the UGT, Spain's biggest labour union, and one of the relatively few individuals to defend Mr Garzon publicly as authorities investigate.
"He has never been sanctioned in all the time he has worked since 1982," Mr Rodriguez said.
Media have widely cited a post the driver reportedly made on his Facebook page with a photograph of a speed dial in a train showing 200 kilometres an hour.
Along with comments he reportedly made by radio immediately before the crash, the Facebook post has painted a compromising picture of Mr Garzon.
El Pais newspaper cited sources in the investigation saying he told controllers that the train was going at 190 kilometres per hour. The curving track where it hurtled off the rails had a speed limit of 80kph.
Newspapers have also quoted him as telling a control centre immediately after the accident: "I hope no one died because it will weigh on my conscience."
The interior minister, Jorge Fernandez Diaz, said on Saturday that Mr Garzon was suspected of "reckless homicide".
Mr Garzon was discharged from hospital on Saturday and taken to a police station. Yesterday he was due to appear before a judge who will decide whether to press charges, the interior minister said.
The head of the state firm ADIF, which runs Spain's railway infrastructure, Gonzalo Ferre, has cast the blame directly on Mr Garzon, saying he should have braked well before the bend outside Santiago.
That part of the track was not equipped with the latest braking technology that would slow the train down automatically if the driver failed to so when required.
In the train station of Montforte de Lemos, workers shook their heads when asked about Mr Garzon. "All we can say about him are good things."