A train speeding through a seaside rail station plowed into a group of youths taking a shortcut across the tracks to get to a beach party, killing at least 12 and injuring 14, Spanish officials said on Thursday.
It was Spain’s deadliest train accident since 2003, when 19 people died in a collision between passenger and freight trains in the south-eastern town of Chinchilla.
The youths got off a commuter train in the popular beach resort of Castelldefels outside Barcelona shortly before midnight on Wednesday for the party marking the start of summer. About 30 climbed down off the platform and tried to cross the tracks instead of using an underpass to leave the station, witnesses said.
A long—distance train that was not scheduled to stop at the station barrelled into the youths at high speed, its whistle shrieking.
Marcelo Cardona, who was on the commuter train, said the victims had been looking forward to dancing around a bonfire on the beach.
“The euphoria of getting off the train immediately became screams. There were people screaming, ‘my daughter! my sister!’” said Cardona, a 34—year—old Bolivian.
The newspaper El Pais said, without citing sources, that except for one 45—year—old woman, the dead and injured were between the ages of 17 and 26.
Cardona said he saw “mutilated people, blood everywhere, blood on the platform.”
Felipe Elmaji, a 29—year—old Moroccan who was travelling with Cardona, said he heard a “thump, thump of the train hitting people.”
Cardona’s sister Candy recalled the shrill, piercing sound of the train’s whistle as it tried to warn people to get out of the way. “It was horrible. I can’t get that sound out of my head,” she said.
Mayor Joan Sau said, “if the underpass had been used, we would probably not be talking about this tragedy right now.”
Sau said there is also a pedestrian walkway over the tracks but it was closed because it was replaced by the underpass when the station was remodelled late last year.
The final toll was 12 dead and 14 injured, said Nacho Solano, a spokesman for the Catalonia regional government’s civil protection department. Three of the injured are in critical condition.