July 4, 2006

Train in Spanish crash was speeding, say officials

By Ana Perez

VALENCIA, Spain (Reuters) - Spain's worst underground train
crash in which 41 people were killed was caused by the engine
going at twice the normal speed and the possibility the driver
passed out, officials said on Tuesday.

Black box data showed the train in Valencia on Spain's east
coast was doing 80 kph (48 mph) on a curve through a tunnel --
twice the normal speed -- when it derailed on Monday, the
city's transport chief Jose Ramon Garcia said in a statement.

Officials were waiting for the result of an autopsy on the
still unnamed driver to see if it would provide further
explanations on how the crash occurred.

"The train accident was caused by excess speed," said
Garcia. "There's no explanation, so we suspect the train driver
might have passed out or suffered some sort of illness which
stopped him reacting."

Valencia's train drivers' union, which said earlier it
suspected poor maintenance caused the accident, accepted the
train had been going too fast on a dangerous curve.

Cesar Hernandez, echoing other survivors of the crash, told
Spanish media on Monday the train had accelerated then braked
suddenly before the accident.

Another survivor, unnamed by the media, said terrified
passengers had shouted "An attack, an attack," recalling the
Islamist militant bombings of four trains in Madrid in 2004 in
which 191 people were killed.

Officials have ruled out a terrorist attack as the cause of
the Valencia crash.

King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero
attended a funeral mass for the dead in the city's cathedral on
Tuesday. Zapatero cut short a trip to India to fly to Valencia,
which is preparing for a visit by Pope Benedict on Saturday.

Valencia's authorities announced compensation of
30,000-60,000 euros ($38,440 - $76,870) for each of the dead.

They said all safety procedures had been in place on the
underground line, which was opened in 1988, and that the train
had been checked on June 27.

Survivors described smashing train windows to stagger out
into a dark tunnel littered with the dead and injured.

"I closed my eyes. I didn't want to see what was
happening," said 65-year-old Arturo Terol.

Forty-seven people were injured in the crash and two of
them were still in a critical condition on Tuesday.