Train-crash toll in Spain hits 80; video shows high speed

2013-07-26T00:00:00Z Train-crash toll in Spain hits 80; video shows high speedThe Associated Press The Associated Press
July 26, 2013 12:00 am  • 

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain - A train that hurtled off the rails and smashed into a security wall as it rounded a bend was going so fast that carriages tumbled off the tracks like dominoes, killing 80 people and maiming dozens more, according to eyewitness accounts and video footage obtained Thursday.

An Associated Press analysis of video images suggests the train may have been traveling at twice the speed limit, or more, along that curved stretch of track. The unanswered question is: Why?

Spain's government said two probes have been launched into the train's derailment Wednesday night on its approach to this Christian festival city in northwest Spain, where planned celebrations in honor of one of Jesus' disciples gave way to a living nightmare.

The regional government in Galicia confirmed that police planned to question the train driver, 52, in Santiago de Compostela's main hospital with unspecified injuries, as both a witness and a possible suspect, but cautioned that possible faults in safety equipment were also being investigated.

The Interior Ministry raised the death toll to 80 in Spain's deadliest train wreck in four decades. The Galician government said 94 others remained hospitalized in six regional hospitals, 31 of them in critical condition.

The U.S. State Department said one American was killed in the crash and five were injured.

"Today the American people grieve with our Spanish friends, who are in our thoughts and prayers," President Obama said in a statement.

In the morning, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, a native of Santiago de Compostela, toured the crash scene alongside rescue workers and went to a nearby hospital to visit the wounded and their families. In the evening, Spain's head of state, King Carlos, and Queen Sofia went to the same hospital.

Rajoy said judicial authorities and the Public Works Ministry had launched investigations.

Witness accounts backed by security-camera footage suggested that the eight-car train was going too fast as it tried to turn left underneath a road bridge. The train company Renfe said 218 passengers and five crew members were on board. Spanish officials said the speed limit on that section of track is 50 mph.

An Associated Press estimate of the train's speed at the moment of impact using the time stamp of the video and the estimated distance between two pylons gives a range of 89 to 119 mph. Another estimate calculated on the basis of the typical distance between railroad ties gives a range of 96 to 112 mph.

The Interior Ministry, responsible for law and order, ruled out terrorism.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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