Saturday, July 12, 2014





80 dead in Spain train crash; speed a likely factor

Five American citizens were among the injured, U.S. State Department says.


July 25. 2013 11:48PM


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SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain — A Spanish train that hurtled off the rails and smashed into a security wall as it rounded a bend was going so fast that its cars tumbled off the tracks like dominoes, killing 80 people, according to eyewitness accounts and video footage obtained Thursday.


An Associated Press analysis of video images suggests the train might have been traveling at twice the speed limit for that stretch of track.


Spain’s government said two probes have been launched into the cause of Wednesday night’s crash near this Christian festival city in northwest Spain. The Interior Ministry raised the death toll to 80 in what was Spain’s deadliest train wreck in four decades, while 95 remained hospitalized, 36 in critical condition, among them four children.


The U.S. State Department said five American citizens were among the injured.


Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, a native of Santiago de Compostela, toured the crash scene alongside rescue workers and went to a nearby hospital to visit those wounded and their families.


He said judicial authorities and the Public Works Ministry had launched parallel investigations into what caused the crash.


The Interior Ministry, responsible for law and order, ruled out terrorism as a cause.


Eyewitness accounts backed by security-camera footage of the moment of disaster suggested that the eight-car train was going too fast as it entered a left-hand curve underneath a road bridge. The train company Renfe said 218 passengers and five crew members were on board. Spanish officials said the speed limit on that section of track is 50 miles per hour.


An Associated Press estimate of the train’s speed at the moment of impact using the frame rate of the video and the estimated distance between two pylons gives a range of 89-119 mph. Another estimate calculated on the basis of the typical distance between railroad ties gives a range of 96-112 mph.


The video footage, which the Spanish railway authority Adif said probably came from one of its cameras, shows the train carriages start to buckle soon into the turn.


Murray Hughes, consultant editor of Railway Gazette International, said it appeared that a diesel-powered unit behind the lead locomotive was the first to derail. The front engine itself quickly followed, violently tipping on to its right side as it crashes into a concrete security wall and bulldozes along the ground.


In the background, all the rear cars can be seen starting to decouple and come off the tracks. The picture goes blank as the engine appears to crash directly into the camera.


Santiago officials had been preparing for the city’s internationally celebrated Catholic festival Thursday but canceled it and took control of the city’s main indoor sports arena to use as a makeshift morgue.




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