Four dead in Spain as train derails
A train carrying tourists to Portugal from northwestern Spain veered off the tracks and smashed into a pillar Friday just as it was approaching a station, leaving its driver and three others dead.
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 was carrying at least 65 people, lay on its side at the scene, the front completely caved in and mangled.
Helicopters and ambulances rushed to attend to victims of the Friday morning accident, in which authorities said four people died — including the train’s Portuguese driver — and another 47 were hurt, some of them still in hospital but none critical.
– Many nationalities on board –
A spokeswoman for Spain’s railway company Renfe said the Spanish conductor of the train was also killed, but the other two victims are as yet unidentified.
Jesus Vazquez Almuina, in charge of health matters in the regional government, told Spanish television there were many nationalities on board.
“There were a lot of Spaniards and Portuguese obviously, but also Americans, Germans, people from Chile, Argentina… people who were doing the Road to Santiago (pilgrimage) and were continuing their trip to Porto,” he said.
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 –
The Galicia region 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 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.