Spain mourns train crash victims as it hunts for clues

Spain in mourning over train crash

Spain is in mourning over the deaths of 78 people in a high-speed train crash on Wednesday.

More than 90 passengers out of 218 on board the train that crashed outside Santiago de Compostela remain in hospital, including some 30 critical.

The injured train driver has been detained and faces charges of "recklessness", police say.

There are reports that the train was travelling at more than double the speed limit at the time of the crash.

Spain has declared three days of national mourning over the crash - one of its worst ever rail disasters.

On Friday, police said 78 people had been confirmed dead - down from 80 announced earlier.

They said the difference arose because human remains had been wrongly identified in the initial stages.

At least 130 people were taken to hospital after the accident, and 95 are still being treated.

The 32 seriously injured include children. People from several nationalities are among the wounded, including five Americans and one Briton. One American was among the dead.

'Too fast'

The Secretary of State for Transport, Rafael Catala, has said in a radio broadcast that early indications suggested the train had been going too fast.

A carriage of a crashed train that killed at least 80 people is lifted on 25 July 2013 Recovery work has been continuing at the site of one of Spain's deadliest rail disasters of the last decades.
Security camera video footage shows a train derailing in Santiago de Compostela on 24 July 2013 The moment the train derailed was captured by a trackside security camera.
People watch the site of a train crash that killed at least 80 people on 25 July Local people look a the damage - shocked at the accident.
People watch the site of a train crash on 25 July King Juan Carlos, who visited Santiago on Thursday, praised the authorities and people who had donated blood in Galicia.
A relative of victims involved in a train accident waits for news at a victims' information point in Santiago de Compostela on 25 July 2013 Relatives are anxious as more than 90 people remain in hospital - about 30 of them still in critical condition.

The Madrid to Ferrol train's data recording "black box" is now with the judge in charge of the investigation.

The driver under investigation, who was slightly injured in the crash and is under guard in hospital, has been named by Spanish media as Francisco Jose Garzon Amo.

Spanish train crashes

  • August 2006: Inter-city train derails in Villada, in the province of Palencia, killing six people and injuring dozens more
  • July 2006: At least 43 people killed in a metro train crash in the Valencia area
  • 1972: Andalusia crash leaves between 76 and 86 people dead.
  • 1944: Hundreds believed dead after a crash in Torre del Bierzo, in Leon province - official account gave the figure as 78 killed.

It is unclear whether anyone else is subject to investigation.

The train's carriages have been removed from the track by cranes and sent for analysis.

The president of railway firm Renfe, Julio Gomez Pomar, was quoted by El Mundo newspaper as saying the driver, who was aged 52, had 30 years of experience with the company and had been operating trains on the line for more than a year.

He said the train which derailed had no technical problems.

But Mr Garzon, who was trapped in the cab after the accident, is quoted as saying moments after the crash that the train had taken the curve at 190 km/h (118mph) despite a speed limit on that section of 80km/h, unidentified investigation sources told Spanish media.

Elena Regueiro, survivor: "I was covered by seats and luggage and bodies"

If this is the case, it remains to be seen whether a systems failure or driver error was the cause, correspondents say.

Railway company Renfe said the train came off the tracks about 3 or 4km (2-2.5 miles) from Santiago de Compostela station at 20:41 local time (18:41 GMT) on Wednesday.

It was on the express route between the capital, Madrid, and the port city of Ferrol on the Galician coast, with 218 passengers on board and four crew.

The derailment happened on the eve of Santiago de Compostela's main annual festival where thousands of Christian pilgrims were expected to flock to the city in honour of St James.

Santiago de Compostela

  • One of the most important Christian pilgrimage sites in Europe
  • El Camino de Santiago (The Way of St James) pilgrimage route has been followed by Christians since the Middle Ages
  • The remains of St James, one of Jesus' 12 disciples and the patron saint of Galicia, are said to rest in the city

According to official figures, the crash is one of the worst rail disasters in Spanish history.

In 1972, a frontal train crash in Andalusia, in the south, left dozens of people dead. The figures given at the time ranged between 76 and 86.

In 1944, hundreds of people were believed to have been killed in a crash in Torre del Bierzo, in Leon province - though the official account in days of heavy censorship during the early rule of Gen Francisco Franco gave the figure as 78 killed.

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