CASTELLDEFELS, Spain, June 24, 2010 (AFP) - "In three seconds there were bodies everywhere," said Marcelo Carmona, who watched helplessly as an express train ploughed into revellers crossing a railway track in northeastern Spain, killing 13.
Carmona was one of hundreds of people who had arrived at Castelldefels, a town of some 63,000 people just south of Barcelona, on a local train just before midnight to attend the annual San Juan festivities at its beach.
|Women cry outside the Legal Medicine Institute of Barcelona where the bodies of the victims of a train crash were sent for identification on June 24, 2010. AFP|
He said the youths who packed the train were "euphoric" at the prospect of the bonfires, fireworks and dancing traditionally held on the sands by the little station to celebrate the start of summer.
"When the doors opened, I stayed behind with my family. The younger ones headed for an underpass but it is very narrow and it immediately became full," Carmona, a Bolivian, told reporters at the site of the accident.
"A wave of passengers crossed the tracks by foot. Then a train arrived at great speed. It made several warning sounds," he added.
The passenger train, travelling from the southeastern city of Alicante to Barcelona, struck a group of some 30 people caught in the middle of the track.
"Everyone was screaming and crying, they were in a state of shock," said Carmona.
Amateur video images taken right after the accident broadcast on Spanish television showed a young man carrying an injured woman to one of the dozens of ambulances which had raced to the scene.
Small groups of youngsters embraced, their clothes lit up by the flashing lights of the vehicles of emergency services. Some wept or held their hands to their heads as they looked at the bodies strewn around them.
Castelldefels mayor Joan Sau said a footbridge over the tracks was closed in October due to remodelling works at the train station and it was replaced by the underground passageway.
Some witnesses said many people were unsure how to get across the tracks when they found the entrance to the footbridge closed.
"We were disoriented, we did not know which exit to take, where to go. There were a lot of people," said Candy Carmona who arrived at Castelldefels with a group of friends on the same commuter train as the victims.
Claudio Lucero, the Chilean owner of a small supermarket located just in front of the station, said the express train did not sound its warning siren "until the last moment."
"Last night, all the trains were packed and there were people everywhere on the platform. Having seen that at previous stations, the driver could have travelled a bit slower," he added.
State-owned rail network Renfe said the train which struck the passengers was travelling below the recommended speed when it passed through the station.
A human body and some body parts were still visible on the tracks hours after the accident amid dozens of police, medics, firefighters and Red Cross workers.
Teams of forensic workers scoured the tracks for body parts. Officials said the task of identifying the victims is expected to be complicated because the bodies were smashed to pieces by the force of the impact.
The remains were taken in 20 sacks to a medical institute in Barcelona, where their loved ones gathered in the afternoon.
"I'm sad for my son's friend who's inside," said Yolanda Flores, an Ecuadorian woman whose two children narrowly escaped the accident.
"His mother is looking for him everywhere in the hospitals. She doesn't want to believe that he is here with the other bodies."
Lucero, the owner of the supermarket at the train station, questioned the attitude of the police at the scene before the accident.
"Several hours before, they stopped kids who were crossing the tracks on foot. Rather than dissuading them, they frisked them. They seemed to be more interested in seeing what they had in their knapsacks," he said.