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American, Portuguese among dead in Spain train crash

A train carrying tourists to Portugal from northwestern Spain veered off the tracks and smashed into a pillar Friday, killing its Portuguese driver as well as a US passenger and two Spaniards.

The train, which was going to Porto in Portugal from Spain’s Vigo, appeared to have hit the wall of a bridge as it was going underneath and subsequently crashed on a good-visibility, straight line, according to the mayor of the nearby town of O Porrino.

A carriage of the train, which had at least 65 people, lay on its side at the scene, the front completely caved in and mangled.

– Many nationalities on board –

Helicopters and ambulances rushed to attend to victims of the Friday morning accident, in which authorities said another 47 people were hurt, some of them still in hospital but none critical.

A spokeswoman for the regional government said that other Spaniards, Americans and Portuguese were among the injured, as well as people from Argentina, Germany, Britain, Brazil, Uruguay and Chile.

Witnesses of the accident, the causes of which remain unknown, spoke of a loud noise.

Alex Ramilo, a 15-year-old local resident who was biking over the bridge when the crash happened, told AFP he heard a “deafening noise.”

“I looked and saw the train derailing. I was speechless, in shock, I didn’t really realise what had happened,” he said.

Ramilo went straight to the station, where he tried to help.

“There were loads of people… residents who wanted to help.

“And as there were not enough emergency personnel, some people even helped them extract people from carriages.”

A passenger who emerged unscathed from the train said in a video posted on local daily La Voz de Galicia that the carriage suddenly started wobbling.

“It wouldn’t stop. I was sitting down and I fell to the ground,” she said.

“And then the train stopped. It was that quick.”

– Why? Questions emerge –

Adif, the company in charge of railway tracks in Spain, said the accident happened around 9.30am local time (0730 GMT) just before the train pulled into the station.

A spokeswoman added that maintenance work had been undertaken in the area, but stressed this was routine.

Ramon Gonzalez, a man interviewed by Spanish television who works in the station cafeteria near the accident, questioned why the train derailed.

“It’s a straight line, the train was due to stop in 50 metres (164 feet), so this isn’t normal,” he said.

Eva Garcia de la Torre, Mayor of O Porrino, told the Cadena Ser radio there was good visibility on that stretch of the tracks.

– Condolences from PM –

Galicia was also the scene of one of Spain’s worst rail disasters in 2013, when around 80 people were killed and another 144 injured after a high-speed train slammed into a concrete wall on the outskirts of Santiago de Compostela.

That train was approaching a curve at more than twice the speed limit on that piece of the track.

The driver has been charged with negligent homicide, and an investigation is due to be reopened to determine if Adif was also partly responsible.

As regional elections near in Galicia this month, several political parties including the ruling conservative Popular Party and the Socialists announced they had suspended their campaign, which had only just kicked off.

Meanwhile Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who is from Galicia, tweeted his concern.

“My condolences to the families of those who died and hoping that the injured recover quickly,” he said.