A train derailed Wednesday in Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain killing at least 79 passengers and causing major disruption. The death toll was increased to 79 Sunday after one of the injured died.
Saturday the train driver, Francisco Jose Garzon, who suffered minor injuries in the crash, was being held by police on suspicion of manslaughter. He has refused to answer any questions regarding the train crash but there are reports that the train was traveling at double the speed limit when it crashed as it took a sharp bend.
Garzon was grilled by a judge for two hours Sunday before being released on bail. The exact charges against him are not known at this time. He surrendered his passport to the court and must report back regularly.
All eight carriages of the train left the track. The train was traveling to a major religious festival and almost at its destination when it "jumped the tracks". The train drivers survived the crash and one was placed under formal investigation in hospital before being detained Friday. Francisco Jose Garzon, 52, the driver in question allegedly ignored warnings the train was traveling at double the speed limit, Sky News, reported Friday.
The high-speed train carrying 218 passengers was traveling from Madrid to Ferrol in Spain on Wednesday when disaster struck. According to the BBC, "images from the scene showed bodies strewn near ruined carriages, and emergency crews searching the wreckage. Analysts say it is the worst rail accident in Spain in four decades."
On Friday July 12 a major train crash in France resulted in six deaths and more than 30 people sustaining injuries. That accident now pales in comparison to Wednesday’s crash in Spain.
The early death toll reported by Russia Today was 65 but that figure was expected to increase and sadly it did so — rapidly. The number of people injured was set at 90. There are reports that four of the carriages caught fire.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy held an emergency meeting with the country's deputy prime minister, interior minister and public works minister following the crash. BBC News reports Rajoy as tweeting: "I want to express my affection and solidarity with the victims of the terrible train accident in Santiago." PM Rajoy who hails from the Santiago de Compastela region visited the scene of the crash Thursday.
There were initial fears that the train was derailed by a terrorist attack but that was quickly been ruled out.
One eyewitness told the media that he felt the train was traveling too fast when it took a curve. Another, Ricardo Montesco, speaking to Spanish Cadena Ser radio station, described the derailment saying the train carriages "piled on top of one another" after the train hit a curve. "A lot of people were squashed on the bottom. We tried to squeeze out of the bottom of the wagons to get out and we realized the train was burning...I was in the second wagon and there was fire. I saw corpses.”
Billowing smoke and bodies thrown on to the track added to the scene of carnage. Little wonder that according to ABC News, "the president of the Galician regional government, Alberto Nunez Feijoo, described the scene as "Dante-esque".
Thursday morning ABC and other news sources revised the death toll to at least 77, later 78 and then 80, with many people injured. Saturday the death toll has been scaled back to 78. 73 bodies were pulled from the train wreckage whilst four people died in the hospital. One hundred and forty of the injured received treatment for light to severe injuries causing major problems for local hospitals. Medical staff hurried to hospitals, even though many are working for reduced salaries following budget cuts and austerity measures by the Spanish government.
The accident has been declared one the worst in European travel history with early indications that the train was traveling over twice the speed limit when it took a sharp bend. However, investigations were quickly underway as rescue services continued their work. Three hundred and twenty police officers were drafted in to help with search and rescue efforts. Striking firefighters abandoned their strike and joined the rescue operation. Axes were used to smash the carriage windows in attempts to free trapped passengers from the wreckage.
At time of writing the number of staff on board the train was unclear. Figures are being revised all the time. Friday the BBC reported 80 dead plus many injured with 32 of those sustaining serious injuries. One Briton was injured.
The cause of the crash is still reported as speed and the latest footage appears to confirm that the train was traveling too fast. Security cameras caught the moment the train hurtled into the bend and was derailed. The train's black box will also be used to investigate what went so horribly wrong.
Spain is holding three days of mourning and the Spanish royal family have canceled engagements as a mark of respect.
It is fair to say that Sunday Spain is still in shock and reeling from this tragedy.