Wednesday night’s train wreck in Santiago de Compostela, Spain has killed 78 passengers to-date, some of which were from the United States and from Mexico. The train may have been going twice the speed limit when it rounded a curve, causing it to derail and slam into a cement support structure for a bridge.
Just one day before the widely celebrated Catholic feast of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, eight cars on a train carrying 218 passengers derailed, killing or injuring nearly three-fourths of them. Among the 78 confirmed deceased, one had hailed from Arlington, Virginia and another from Mexico. Eighty-one people are in the hospital, with more than half of them in critical condition. At least five other Americans were injured in the wreck.
An investigation of the accident is underway, and the train’s conductor has been arrested with reports that the train was going too fast at the time of the crash. It is suspected that driver Francisco José Garzón Amo was going more than double the 80 kilometers per hour (kph) speed limit that was in effect when the train went around the curve. One survivor said that he saw the train’s speed reach over 190 kph on a monitor screen, not knowing that this was excessive for a turn that was approaching.
Amo has had over 30 years of experience as a train conductor. He had posted photographs on Facebook in 2012 showing one of his train’s speedometers at 200 kph. Investigators are examining the train’s data box, which records the locomotive’s speed and braking patterns. The fifty-two-year-old driver is currently recovering in the hospital for injuries that he had sustained from the accident.
Spain has declared three days of mourning for crash victims, and authorities are urging people to donate blood for those hospitalized.