Probe of deadly derailment focuses on train speed
By all accounts, the train was going way too fast as it curled around a gentle bend. Then in an instant, one car tumbled off the track, followed by the rest of the locomotive, which seemed to come apart like a zipper being pulled. The derailment sent pieces of the sleek train plowing across the ground in a ghastly jumble of smashed metal, dirt and smoke.
But two days after Spain suffered its deadliest rail disaster in decades, which killed 80 people and maimed scores of others, one question surpassed all others: Why was the train moving so fast? An American passenger on the train told The Associated Press he saw a monitor screen inside his car clocking the speed at 194 kph (121 mph) just before the crash, more than double the 80 kph (50 mph) speed limit on the curve where it derailed. Investigators opened a probe on Thursday into possible failings by the 52-year old driver and the train’s internal speed-regulation systems.
Experts said one, or both, must be at fault for the disastrous Wednesday night crash of the train that was carrying 218 passengers and five crew members to Santiago de Compostela, a destination of Catholic pilgrimage preparing to celebrate its most revered saint. Instead, this stunned city of nearly 100,000 converted its sports arena into a shelter for the dead and the grieving. ‘All Spaniards feel the pain of the families,’ said Spain’s head of state, King Juan Carlos, as he and Queen Sofia met hospitalized survivors of the crash 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) south of Santiago de Compostela. The royal couple dressed in funereal black.
‘For a native of Santiago like me, this is the saddest day,’ said Prime minister Mariano Rajoy, who toured the crash scene and declared a national three-day mourning period. The regional government of Galicia, in northwest Spain, said he US State Department said one American died and at least five others were hurt but cautioned that those figures could be revised upward.