LONDON – Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy promised two investigations Thursday into the deadly train derailment in northwestern Spain, with suspicion focusing on excessive speed as the cause of the disaster that has left at least 80 people dead and scores more injured.
“We have lived through a terrible accident which I fear will remain in our memory for a long time,” a somber Rajoy told reporters after visiting the site of Wednesday’s derailment near the Christian pilgrimage town of Santiago de Compostela in the Galicia region.
The U.S. State Department said Thursday that one American was killed and five were injured in the accident. The American who died was identified by the Diocese of Arlington as Ana Maria Cordoba, an administrative employee from northern Virginia. She and her husband and daughter were traveling to visit her son, who had completed the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
The Spanish Interior Ministry has ruled out terrorism as the cause, the Associated Press reported. In 2004, an al-Qaida-inspired bombing attack on train stations in Madrid killed nearly 200 people.
Instead, investigators are looking at driver error as a possible cause of the train leaping off the tracks at high speed. Footage from a security camera at the derailment site showed the train traveling at what appeared to be extremely high speed around a curve.
Survivors also have spoken of the train hurtling around the bend. The AP said the track on that stretch was designed for speeds of up to about 50 mph.
The regional government in Galicia confirmed that police planned to question the 52-year-old train driver, in Santiago de Compostela’s main hospital with unspecified injuries, as both a witness and as a possible suspect, the news service reported. However, officials cautioned that possible faults in safety equipment were also being investigated.
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