(Reuters) – The driver of a Spanish train that derailed,killing at least 80 people,was under police guard in hospital on Thursday after the dramatic accident which an official source said was caused by excessive speed.
The eight-carriage train came off the tracks,hit a wall and caught fire just outside the pilgrimage destination Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain on 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 cancelled festivities as the city went into mourning.
The Galicia regional supreme court said in a statement the judge investigating the accident had ordered police to take a statement from the driver.
He was being formally investigated and under police guard but not under arrest,the court said. He was in hospital but it was not clear what kind of injuries he had suffered.
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 jack-knifed and the engine overturned.
One local official described the aftermath of the crash as like a scene from hell,with bodies strewn next to the tracks.
The impact was so huge one carriage flew several metres into the air and landed on the other side of a high concrete barrier.
Around 94 people were injured,35 of them,including four children,in a serious condition,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.
Newspaper accounts cited witnesses as saying the 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,said a spokeswoman for Renfe,the state train company.
A court source told Reuters there was one driver on the train. Previously,a Galicia government source had said there were two.
TRAIN HIT BEND AT SPEED
El Pais newspaper said the driver told the railway station by radio after being trapped in his cabin that the train entered the bend at 190 kilometres per hour (120 mph). An official source said the speed limit on that stretch of twin track,laid in 2011,was 80 kph.
“We’re only human! We’re only human!” the driver told the station,the newspaper said,citing sources close to the investigation. “I hope there are no dead,because this will weigh on my conscience.”
Investigators were trying to find out why the train was going so fast and why security devices to keep speed within permitted limits had not slowed the train.
Operated by state-owned company Renfe,the train was built by Bombardier and Talgo and was around five years old. It had almost the maximum number of passengers.
Spain’s rail safety record is better than the European average,ranking 18th out of continued…