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Spain train derailment: Driver detained, toll lowered to 78

July 26, 2013|By Henry Chu
  • Wounded people are evacuated Wednesday at the site of a train accident in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Spanish police on Friday detained the driver of the train.
Wounded people are evacuated Wednesday at the site of a train accident in… ( Monica Ferreir / La Voz de…)

LONDON -- The driver of the train that derailed in northwest Spain, which killed or injured more than 200 people, has been formally detained and will be questioned by authorities, Spanish police said Friday.

Francisco Jose Garzon Amo is in the hospital recovering from injuries sustained in the wreck, said Jaime Iglesias, head of Spain’s National Police in the region of Galicia. Once doctors give the go-ahead, investigators are expected to quiz Garzon Amo about the circumstances surrounding the accident, Iglesias told reporters.

Spain’s Interior Ministry, which had put the death toll at 80, revised that figure downward slightly Friday to 78 as coroner’s officials strove to identify the remains of bodies badly mutilated in Wednesday’s disaster. Several other passengers remain in critical condition, and the number of fatalities could yet rise.

Authorities are eager to hear Garzon Amo’s account of why the train appeared to be traveling at what some passengers described as extremely high speed as it rounded a curve near the town of Santiago de Compostela. Footage from a security camera showed the train hurtling around the bend, then jumping clear of the tracks and smashing into a wall.

The Associated Press reported that the speed limit on that stretch of track was about 50 mph but that analysis of the video suggested the train was barreling along at more than twice that speed. Authorities are expected to analyze the data stored in the train’s “black box” to determine details of the train’s operation in the moments leading up to the derailment.

The Spanish government has ruled out terrorism as a cause and has declared three days of national mourning for the victims of the country’s worst railway disaster in several decades.

In addition, Santiago de Compostela, a magnet for thousands of Christian pilgrims, has canceled its annual festival in honor of St. James, who by tradition is buried in the town.

At least one American was killed in the accident. The Diocese of Arlington, in northern Virginia, identified her as Ana Maria Cordoba, who worked for the diocese.


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Twitter: @HenryHChu

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