TRAIN ACCIDENT

Excessive speed caused train crash in Galicia that killed four people

Initial analysis of data from the train’s black boxes confirms human error likely cause of accident

The wreck of the train involved in the accident in O Porriño.
The wreck of the train involved in the accident in O Porriño.Salvador Sas / EFE

A Portuguese train that came off the rails killing four people while making the journey from the Spanish port city of Vigo to Porto in Portugal on September 9 was traveling at four times the permitted speed along a stretch of track where maintenance work was being carried out, data retrieved from the train’s two black boxes has revealed.

Preliminary data suggests the driver may have received instructions to slow down

The train derailed near the station of O Porriño in northwestern Spain. The four dead in the accident included the train’s Portuguese driver, its Spanish conductor, and two passengers, one from the United States. A further 48 people were injured.

Black box data retrieved on Tuesday revealed that the train was traveling at 118km/h instead of the 30km/h speed limit mandated by the presence of maintenance works.

Trains traveling the Vigo-Porto route usually reach speeds of up to 120km/h. However, the ‘Celta’ train involved in the accident should have been going at a maximum of 30km/h after being diverted onto a secondary track because of maintenance works. Those works were clearly signaled, according to Spanish public rail operator Renfe and state railway infrastructure firm Adif.

Preliminary data analysis also suggest the driver may have received instructions to slow down, Galicia’s regional High Court said on Tuesday.

The train remains near the station of O Porriño, where investigations are being carried out

The judge charged with investigating the accident has called in representatives from Renfe and Adif, and from Portuguese state rail operator Comboios de Portugal. The Spanish Rail Accident Commission and other experts are also assisting.

Juan Carlos Carballeira, one of those experts, confirmed outside court on Tuesday that the train was going too fast at the time of the crash. Carballeira, present during the analysis of the black box data, declined to comment further.

The train involved in the accident remains near the station of O Porriño, where investigations are now being carried out.

Meanwhile, the investigating judge has given permission for the body of the Portuguese driver to be repatriated, while the body of the US citizen killed in the accident was expected to be sent home shortly.

English version by George Mills.

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