Thursday, July 25, 2013

Latin Americans Among Dead in Spanish Train Disaster

At least four people from three Latin American countries were among the dozens of fatalities from Spain’s worst transportation accident in decades.

The Colombian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Thursday that two nationals from that country were among the passengers of a high-speed train that derailed on a curve Wednesday night in the northwestern Spanish region of Galicia.

The name of one of the deceased has yet to be published while her family gets contacted but the other Colombian fatality was reportedly identified as Sara Camila Vélez Fuenmayor. 

The 36-yer-old was allegedly riding on the train in order to pick up her eleven-year-old daughter who was vacationing with her Spanish-born father.  Vélez Fuenmayor, who had dual Colombian and Spanish citizenship, worked as a gym instructor and her own jewelry-making business.  She had been residing in Madrid for the past fifteen years and was also a mother to a three-year-old boy.

Yolanda Delfín Ortega of Mexico was also mentioned on Thursday as one of the deceased. The university student majored in law at the Universidad Anáhuac of Xalapa in her native Veracruz but had traveled to Spain as part of an academic exchange program.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy admitted, “It’s a major challenge to identify the people who have died.” Yet forensic experts were able to positively identify Delfín Ortega based on photographs published on the Internet by her family and boyfriend.  (Some of these images can be seen in the video at the top of this post).

“She sent me a message on Facebook saying that she was about to arrive at Santiago de Compostela and that we would get in touch once she got home,” Delfín Ortega’s boyfriend, Luis Ledesma said in a radio interview before her body was identified.

Thousands of messages of support have been sent to Ledesma and Delfín Ortega’s family via the social media hashtag #YolandaDelfínOrtega.  Among those expressing condolences to her family was Veracruz state governor Javier Duarte who also expressed his “solidarity” with the Spanish people.

Dominican national Rosalina Ynoa was mentioned by Spanish daily El Mundo as one of those who died in the train accident.  Ynoa, who was a senior official in the Dominican Ministry of Planning and Development, was in Galicia as part of a conference and also to make a surprise visit to see several family members.

“We have not received any official news.  We are waiting for any information that comes out of Spain,” said Ynoa’s niece to Listín Diario. “All that we’ve been told is that her body has not been found, which means that we cannot say that she’s dead,” added Rachell Paulus Ynoa.

The Mexican government is helping Delfín Ortega’s family including her parents who will travel to Spain, while Ynoa’s loved ones in Galicia are receiving support from Dominican diplomats in Spain.

Thus far the death toll is at eighty though it’s expected to rise as rescuers attempt to find some of the scores still missing. Authorities have detained one of the train’s drivers after he admitted that the train was traveling at over twice the speed through a tight curve. 

According to several eyewitnesses, the crash site was scattered with wreckage and bodies:
Firefighter Jaime Tizon, one of the first to reach the site of the crash, described the scene as "hell".
"I'm coming from hell, I couldn't tell you if the engine was on fire, or one of the carriages or what..." he told Spanish newspaper ABC after dragging the injured and bodies from the train.

One witness, Ricardo Montesco, described how the train carriages "piled on top of one another" after the train hit the curve.
"A lot of people were squashed on the bottom. We tried to squeeze out of the bottom of the wagons to get out and we realised the train was burning... I was in the second wagon and there was fire. I saw corpses," he told Spanish Cadena Ser radio station.
People from several nationalities are among the over 140 wounded, while at least one person from the U.S. was among the dead.

Video Source– YouTube via user Cadena3Noticias

Online Sources - El Tiempo; Huffington Post; Bloomberg; BBC News; Univision; W Radio; Listin Diario; Milenio

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