A derailment of a high-speed train in northern Spain killed at least 78 people earlier today and injured many more. Police have the driver of the train detained while they continue to rescue people and investigate the crash, and they have surveillance video of the derailment as a big boost to their probe (via The Week):
Police put the driver of a Spanish train under investigation on Thursday after at least 78 people died when it hit a sharp bend at speed, derailed and caught fire near the pilgrimage center of Santiago de Compostela, in one of Europe’s worst rail disasters.
Dramatic video footage from a security camera outside the northwestern city showed the train, with 247 people on board, careering into a wall at the side of the track as carriages jack-knifed and the engine overturned.
One local official described the aftermath of the crash, on the eve of one of Europe’s biggest Christian festivals in the ancient city, as like a scene from hell, with bodies strewn next to the tracks.
“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 driver was under formal police investigation, a spokeswoman for Galicia’s Supreme Court told Reuters, without naming him. The train had two drivers and one was in hospital, the Galicia government said.
Police want to know why the driver had the train going 190 kph (120 MPH) coming into the curve when the speed limit for that part of the track was half of that speed. The train itself is supposed to force the driver to slow down in those zones, but for some reason the system appears to have failed. The video doesn’t show any other track-related reason for the derailment, although there could certainly have been something too small to see, or perhaps other equipment failures on the train itself.
At least five Americans were injured in the derailment. So far, though, no Americans are known to be among the dead.
CNN updated the story an hour ago or so:
The “puff of smoke” the reporter cites doesn’t seem so inexplicable to me. In looking at the surveillance video, the train begins to derail before that happens, and the “puff” seems to be the kind of eruption of dirt and dust one would expect when the cars landed next to the track. The speed itself would explain the accident.