American, Portuguese among four 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 travelling to Porto in Portugal from Spain’s Vigo, appeared to have hit the wall of a bridge as it was going underneath, prompting it to crash just before entering a station, according to the mayor of the nearby town of O Porrino.
Authorities in the Galicia region where the accident took place said that the train conductor was one of the two Spaniards who died in the Friday morning accident, which also saw some 47 people injured.
Among those hurt were other Spaniards, Americans and Portuguese as well as people from Argentina, Germany, Britain, Brazil, Uruguay and Chile — none of whom suffered serious injury.
– Maintenance work –
Locals gathered late Friday at the scene of the accident — where a carriage of the train still lay on its side, the front completely caved in and mangled — questioning why the crash happened on a good-visibility, straight line.
Adif, the company in charge of railway tracks in Spain, said that routine maintenance work was being conducted in the area.
This was confirmed by Rafael Catala, acting Public Works Minister, who said it meant “that trains are provisionally diverted to another track, forcing them to reduce their speed according to regulations”.
But many locals on site told AFP that trains on this stretch of the tracks passed by at high speed.
Maria del Carmen Perez, who lives in front of accident site, said trains that make the Vigo to Porto connection “go by so fast that the windows of my house almost tremble”.
Like several others, Ramon Gonzalez, a man interviewed by Spanish television who works in the station cafeteria near the accident, pointed out that the tracks were in a straight line.
“The train was due to stop in 50 metres (160 feet), so this isn’t normal,” he said.
Witnesses of the accident, meanwhile, 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.”
Spain’s acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who is from Galicia, travelled to the site of the accident.
Spain’s rali company Renfe had rented the train to Portugal’s railway Comboios de Portugal (CP), which manages the line with its Spanish counterpart.
The train itself had undergone a complete overhaul in May, Spanish officials said, with Portugal’s rail chief Manuel Queiro adding that it was “in perfect condition”.
– PM on site –
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 in that accident has been charged with negligent homicide, and an investigation is due to be reopened to determine if Adif was also partly responsible.
Ahead of regional elections in Galicia this month several political parties, including the ruling conservative Popular Party and the Socialists announced they were suspending their campaigns, which had only just got underway.