Party atmosphere turns to horror as train slams revellers

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"In three seconds there were bodies everywhere," said Marcelo Carmona, who watched helplessly as a train ploughed into revelers crossing a railway track in northeastern Spain, killing 12.

Carmona was one of hundreds of people who had arrived at Castelldefels, a town of some 63,000 people just south of Barcelona, on a local train just before midnight to attend the annual San Juan festivities at its beach.

He said the youths who packed the train were "euphoric" at the prospect of the bonfires, fireworks and dancing traditionally held on the sands served by the little station to celebrate the start of summer.

"When the doors opened, I stayed behind with my family. The younger ones headed for a subway but it is very narrow and it immediately became full," he told reporters at the site of the accident.

Another exit via a bridge had been long closed for repair works.

"A wave of passengers crossed the tracks by foot. Then a train arrived at great speed. It made several warning sounds," said Carmona.

The high-speed through train travelling from the southeastern city of Alicante to Barcelona struck a group of some 30 people aged between 16 and 26 caught in the middle of the track.

"Everyone was screaming and crying, they were in a state of shock," added Carmona.

Amateur video images taken right after the accident broadcast on Spanish television showed a young man carrying an injured woman to one of the dozens of ambulances which had raced to the scene.

Small groups of youngsters embraced, their clothes lit up by the flashing lights of the vehicles of emergency services. Some wept or held their hands to their heads as they looked at the bodies strewn around them.

Claudio Lucero, the Chilean owner of a small supermarket located just in front of the station, said the express did not sound its warning siren "until the last moment."

"Last night, all the trains were packed and there were people everywhere on the platform. Having seen that at previous stations, the driver could have travelled a bit slower," he added.

State-owned rail network Renfe said the train which struck the passengers was travelling below the recommended speed when it passed through the station.

The driver braked as hard as he could but still ended up 200 metres (yards) past the station.

"In this sort of situation an engine driver who is travelling at the recommended speed cannot do much aside from trying to brake," a representative of Spanish railway union Semaf, Carlos Segura, told Spanish radio.

"We have spoken to the driver. He is calm because he acted according to the rules, but very worried, in a state of shock," he added.

A human body and some body parts were still visible on the tracks hours after the accident amid dozens of police, medics, firefighters and Red Cross workers.

Teams of forensic workers scoured the tracks for body parts. Officials said the task of identifying the victims is expected to be complicated because of the fragmentation of the bodies.

Lucero, the owner of the supermarket at the train station, questioned the attitude of the police at the scene before the accident.

"Several hours before, they stopped kids who were crossing the tracks on foot. Rather than dissuading them, they frisked them. They seemed to be more interested in seeing what they had in their knapsacks," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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