Driver in custody after 80 killed in Spain train crash
Police took the driver of a Spanish train into custody in a hospital Thursday after at least 80 people died when it derailed and caught fire in a dramatic accident that an official source said was caused by excessive speed.
The eight-carriage high-velocity train came off the tracks just outside the pilgrimage center of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain Wednesday night. It was one of Europe's worst rail disasters.
The source had knowledge of the official investigation into a crash which brought misery to Santiago on Thursday, the day when it should have celebrated one of Europe's biggest Christian festivals. Authorities canceled festivities as the city went into mourning.
The Galicia region supreme court said in a statement that the judge investigating the accident had ordered police to put the driver in custody and take a statement from him. He was under formal investigation, the court said.
Dramatic video footage from a security camera showed the train, with 247 people on board, hurtling into a concrete wall at the side of the track as carriages jackknifed and the engine overturned.
One local official described the aftermath of the crash as being like a scene from hell, with bodies strewn next to the tracks.
The impact was so huge that one carriage flew several meters into the air and landed on the other side of the high concrete barrier.
Some 94 people were injured, of whom 35 were in serious condition, including four children, the deputy head of the regional government said.
"We heard a massive noise, and we went down the tracks. I helped get a few injured and bodies out of the train. I went into one of the cars, but I'd rather not tell you what I saw there," Ricardo Martinez, a 47-year old baker from Santiago de Compostela, told Reuters.
The train had two drivers, the Galicia government said, but it was not immediately clear which one was in the hospital and under investigation.
Newspaper accounts cited witnesses as saying one driver, Francisco Jose Garzon, who had helped rescue victims, shouted into a phone: "I've derailed! What do I do?"
The 52-year-old had been a train driver for 30 years, a Renfe spokeswoman said. Many newspapers published excerpts from his Facebook account where he was reported to have boasted of driving trains at high speed. The page was taken offline Thursday, and the reports could not be verified.