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Spain train crash victims mourned at memorial

Train conductor charged with 79 counts of homicide by professional recklessness

CNN News Wire | 7/29/2013, 12:30 p.m.
SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain — Somber organ music filled a cathedral in northwestern Spain Monday at a memorial for the ...
Spain Train Crash Work crews begin to remove pieces of the wrecked train near Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Wednesday, July 25. 79 people were killed, and over 100 were injured.

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain — Somber organ music filled a cathedral in northwestern Spain Monday at a memorial for the 79 passengers who perished in last week’s train crash.

Santiago de Compostela Archbishop Julian Barrio offered prayers for victims and their families, and praised neighbors who lived near the tracks for rushing to help those in need.

On a day last week when residents were preparing for a large regional celebration, he said, “news of the rail accident overwhelmed our souls.”

“Our brothers lost their lives ... when they had so many plans. It is not easy to understand and accept this reality,” he said, “but I say to you, let our pain not be wasted. Everything has meaning in our lives. We are not shouting in a vacuum. Our faith tells us that our pain and suffering, joined with that of Christ and the cross, carries us to salvation.”

Passengers in last week’s crash came from near and far — Europe, Latin America, the United States — and had almost reached their destination of Ferrol on the northwestern coast when the train careened around a curve and derailed, hurling carriages into a concrete bridge support structure.

Five days have passed since the disaster, but many questions remain: What caused the train to derail? Was the train going too fast? And what did the conductor do in the moments before the crash?

The driver

The driver of the train, Francisco Jose Garzon, was charged Sunday with 79 counts of homicide by professional recklessness and an undetermined number of counts of causing injury by professional recklessness.

A court granted Garzon conditional release, but his license to operate a train has been suspended for six months. He also surrendered his passport and must report to court weekly.

Many have questioned how fast the train was traveling when its wheels left the track near Santiago de Compostela on Wednesday evening.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz told reporters Saturday there are “rational indications” that the crash was the fault of the driver. But pressed on what those are, he declined to provide details.

Police now have the data recorders from the train.

A somber task

Over the weekend, relatives of victims embarked on the grim but necessary task of picking up the luggage left behind.

A solemn parade of mourners wheeled bags away from the police station in Santiago de Compostela. The suitcases had been recovered from the wreckage scene, their owners either dead or badly injured.

About 70 people injured in the crash remained hospitalized Sunday, including 22 in serious condition, a representative for the regional health department said.

Identifying the bodies

At least 75 bodies have been identified, but it’s unclear whether dozens of body parts belong to those accounted for or those yet to be identified.

The dead include at least 63 from Spain, said Maria Pardo Rios, spokeswoman for the Galicia regional supreme court. Some of the other victims came from the United States, Latin America and Europe.

Myrta Fariza was one of the two Americans killed. She and her husband were on their way to a Catholic festival; He was injured and later released from the hospital.