All eight carriages of the Madrid to Ferrol train derailed near the city of Santiago de Compostela on Wednesday night, leaving at least 140 people injured.
Dramatic video footage from a security camera outside the northwestern city showed the train, with 247 people on board, hurtling into a concrete wall at the side of the track as carriages jack-knifed and the engine overturned.
One local official described the aftermath of the crash as like a scene from hell, with bodies strewn next to the tracks.
The impact was so huge one carriage flew several feet into the air and landed on the other side of the high concrete barrier.
“We heard a massive noise and we went down the tracks. I helped get a few injured and bodies out of the train. I went into one of the cars but I’d rather not tell you what I saw there,” said Ricardo Martinez, a 47-year old baker from Santiago de Compostela.
The train driver was under formal police investigation, said a spokeswoman for Galicia’s Supreme Court without naminghim.
The driver of the train made a panicked phone call moments before the crash saying that the train was going too fast.
“I’m at 190 (kmph) and I’m going to derail!”, the engine driver told the controllers of RENFE, the rail network.
Police sources said that moments after the crash, the traumatised driver made another call to the operator.
“It derailed!” he said. “What am I going to do, what am I going to do? We are all humans — we’re humans. I hope there are no fatalities because it will all be on my conscience.”
The carriages careened off the tracks at a curve approaching the station at Santiago where the limit is set at 80 km per hour (50mph).
Recounting the horror of when the train crashed, one of the passengers said, “It was like a scene from hell. I thought I was dreaming.
There was blood everywhere, my own and other people’s. And bodies were being carried out. They were pulling people from the wreckage.
Some were already dead and others looked like they were about to die. We were like the walking dead.”
The accident marks the worst rail accident in Spain since 1944 when 500 people were killed.