, CASTELLDEFELS, Jun 24 – Twelve people died and 14 others were injured when a passenger train slammed into a group of young revelers who crossed a railway track instead of using a crowded underground passageway in Spain, officials said Thursday.
The accident happened as a group of about 30 people who had gotten off a commuter train at the Castelldefels Playa station some 25 kilometres (15 miles) south of Barcelona attempted to cross the tracks at around 11:30 p.m. (2130 GMT) on Wednesday.
Many were headed to the beach for the annual San Juan festivities, which celebrate the year\’s shortest night with bonfires, fireworks and dancing, when they were struck by an intercity train travelling between the eastern cities of Alicante and Barcelona.
"It is a day of sadness and mourning on a night that should be of festivity, of a street party," the president of the regional government of Catalonia, Jose Montilla, said after visiting the scene of the accident.
One of the injured is in critical condition and two others are in serious condition, said the regional government of Catalonia\’s health minister, Marina Geli.
All of the injured are under the age of 28 except for one woman who is 45, according to public radio.
Witnesses said an underground pedestrian passageway quickly became full by the hundreds of people who got off the commuter train, prompting many people to cross the tracks which were not lit up at the time.
"Then a train arrived at great speed. It made several warning sounds. In three seconds everything became covered in bodies. Everyone screamed, cried, they were in a state of shock," said Marcelo Carmona who arrived at the station on the commuter train with his family.
A body and some human body parts were visible on the tracks hours after the accident amid dozens of police, medics, firefighters and Red Cross workers, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
"The impact was brutal. The sound was like that of rocks being crushed but it was humans," Andres who witnessed the accident, told the online edition of daily newspaper El Mundo.
Castelldefels mayor Joan Sau said an elevated crosswalk over the tracks was closed in October due to remodelling works at the train station and it was replaced by the underground passageway.
Transport Minister Jose Blanco promised a full investigation into the causes of the accident.
"Everything leads one to think that it was due to imprudence on the part those who did not use an underground passageway," he told reporters in Luxembourg where he was attended a meeting of EU transport ministers.
State-owned rail network Renfe said the train which struck the passengers was traveling below the recommended speed when it passed through the station and it issued warning sounds before it arrived as is the norm.
Montilla said many of the victims appeared to be of South American origin but he warned the task of identifying the victims is expected to be complicated because of the fragmentation of the bodies.
The regional government of Catalonia declared Thursday to be an official day of mourning.
European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso sent a message of condolences to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
"The passing away of 12 people, most of them young people, knocked over by the train, is a tragedy," it said.
Spanish media said it was the worst rail accident in Spain since 19 people were killed and 38 injured in a June 2003 collision between a passenger train and a freight train in the southeastern town of Chinchilla.