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Continued: Spain train crash investigation turns to driver, who was responsible for brakes

  • Article by: CIARAN GILES , Associated Press
  • Last update: July 26, 2013 - 4:54 PM

On Friday, workers gradually cleaned up the disaster scene. Hundreds of onlookers watched as crews used a crane to hoist smashed and burned-up cars onto flat-bed trucks to cart them away.

However, the shattered front engine remained beside the track, though lifted back upright. Passenger trains, many of them the identical Alvia model, passed by the spot just yards (meters) away.

At night, grieving families gathered for the first funerals near Santiago de Compostela, a site of Catholic pilgrimage that had been preparing to celebrate its most revered saint, Jesus' disciple James, whose remains are said to rest in a shrine in the city. Annual festivities planned for Thursday were canceled.

Jaime Iglesias, police chief of Spain's northwest Galicia region, said Amo would be questioned "as a suspect for a crime linked to the cause of the accident." When asked, Iglesias described Amo's alleged offense as "recklessness." He declined to elaborate.

The driver, who suffered a gashed head in the crash, was put under police guard but has yet to be interviewed. That might be delayed because of his injuries, Iglesias said.

Renfe said Amo is a 30-year employee of the state train company, who became an assistant driver in 2000 and a fully qualified driver in 2003.

Antonio del Amo, chief scientific officer of Spain's National Police, cautioned that the death toll could be revised as they continue their work DNA-testing body parts on what they believe are three unidentified victims.

Catholic Church authorities in the U.S. state of Virginia identified the dead American as Ana Maria Cordoba, 47. She had been traveling to Santiago de Compostela to meet up with her youngest son, also named Santiago, who had just completed the area's celebrated religious trek through the mountains of northern Spain: El Camino de Santiago, or "The Way of St. James."

The New York Daily News reported that Cordoba's husband and daughter also were on the train but survived, with the husband sustaining skull injuries and the daughter a broken leg.

The Dominican government identified its victim as Ynoa Rosalina Gonzalez, 42, a senior official in the country's Economy Ministry. It said Gonzalez' two sisters provided DNA samples to confirm the identity of the body.

Spain, a country of 47 million with extensive and popular train services, also has a history of terrible crashes.

Much of the Spanish and international media have described the crash as Spain's worst since 1944, but this reflects disputed public records that Spain has kept of some previous crashes.

According to Spain's highest-circulation newspaper, El Pais, this is the nation's most deadly train crash since 1972, when an express train collided with a local commuter service and killed 86. Others say 76 or 77 died, which would make its death toll marginally lower than Wednesday's calamity.

The 1944 crash is murkier. The Franco dictatorship at the time sought to suppress news of the full death toll when three trains collided in a tunnel, insisting that 78 perished. Later investigations put the toll above 500.


Giles reported from Madrid. Associated Press writers Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City, Utah; Alan Clendenning and Harold Heckle in Madrid; and Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this report.

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