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'Scene From Hell' At Site Of Spanish Train Crash

Some of the wreckage at the site of Wednesday's train crash near Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Miguel Vidal
Some of the wreckage at the site of Wednesday's train crash near Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
This post was last updated at 5:45 p.m. ET.

About 80 people died, scores more were wounded and the eyewitness accounts are sobering in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, after Wednesday's crash of a passenger train.

Reuters writes that "in what one local official described as a scene from hell, bodies covered in blankets lay next to the overturned carriages as smoke billowed from the wreckage after the disaster. ... Cranes were still pulling out mangled debris on Thursday morning, 12 hours after the crash."

"The scene is shocking, it's Dante-esque," the head of the Galicia region, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, said in a radio interview, according to The Guardian.

One man who went to help, 47-year-old baker Ricardo Martinez, tells the wire service that:

"We heard a massive noise and we went down the tracks. I helped getting 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."

It's thought that the train may have been going too fast. "Media reports say the train may have been travelling at more than twice the speed limit around a curve," reports the BBC.

According to NPR's Sylvia Poggioli, "the El Pais daily quoted investigators saying that the train was traveling at more than twice the speed limit on a sharp curve" when it derailed. Bloomberg News adds that "the train was traveling at 190 kilometers per hour [118 mph] as it entered the section of track, which has a speed limit of 80 kph [50 mph], El Pais newspaper reported, citing a radio conversation between the driver and train control staff."

Santiago de Compostela is in northwest Spain, near the Atlantic coast.

On Morning Edition, Time magazine's Lisa Abend spoke with host David Greene about the accident.

Update at 5:46 p.m. ET. Conductor Said He Was Going Fast:

Quoting investigators, El País reports that one of the train conductors said over the radio that he was going very fast at 190 kilometers per hour, and then at 200. After the crash, he was communicating via radio that his back hurt and that he was trapped.

"We are humans, we are humans," he said, according to the paper. "I hope no one died, because it would bear on my conscience."

The paper of record in Spain reports that the speed limit in that area is 80 kmh. What's still unclear is whether the conductor was going that fast on purpose or because of a mechanical failure.

TVE has begun putting together profiles of the victims: Francisco Javier was 27 and loved animals; Manuel was 57-years-old and was taking his first train ride.

José Ramón and Alicia were husband and wife. Alicia decided to use the bathroom one minute before the crash. As TVE puts it, be it by luck, chance or fate, she survived; he did not.

Update at 8 a.m. ET. Video Of The Crash:

Sky News is among those who have obtained surveillance footage of the train coming around the bend and then derailing. As Sky cautions, the video "contains graphic footage." So do not click play unless you're sure you want to see what happens.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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