Houston Couple Was on Derailed Train in Spain

One American among the dead; train driver is questioned

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC News/Fariza Family Photo
    Robert Fariza and his wife Myrta were among the American passengers on the high-speed train that derailed in Northern Spain.

    The U.S. State Department says one American was among the 80 people killed in Wednesday's train derailment in Northern Spain, and that five other Americans were hurt.

    Robert Fariza and his wife, Myrta, of Houston, were among the American passengers on the high-speed train that derailed.

    Fariza survived the crash, but his wife was seriously injured. She's in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Spain.

    He described a scene of horror when the train derailed, saying everything went black.

    "Our car flipped over. It became chaos. Things flew and everything. It was sudden darkness, and I was kind of thrown on one side of the train, and that's why I'm kind of all kind of beaten up here," Fariza said. "And my wife, unfortunately, she was sitting on the side where the train flipped over, so everything kind of fell on her and two other people."

    Myrta Fariza was on the side that absorbed the most impact. Her husband said he conducted a frantic search for her in the rubble.

    "So I was hysterical and screaming out her name, just to make sure that she was conscious, that we were still looking for her and, for some reason, I didn't see when they pulled her out, because we were all so busy," he said. "I'm thinking, if we help these other people, then it's going to help my wife, too, so were all helping each other in some way. And in that moment, when I look on the ground and they had pulled her out and that's where I found her -- she was in bad shape. Her scalp kind of flipped over. She had her skull exposed. Right now, she's in very, very bad conditions and, according to the doctors, she is one of the worst ones in her situation."

    Robert Fariza said locals were the first to come to the crash site to help survivors get off the train. They don't want to talk about what they've seen.

    "There was dead people everywhere, unfortunately, and, right next to me, there was [a] young man who had died right there," he said.

    Stephen Ward, 18, from Utah, was also on the train. He told UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph from his hospital bed that, "It was a scene from hell."

     

    Meanwhile, Spain's government said two investigations on the cause of the crash near the Christian festival city of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain have been launched. The regional government confirmed that the train driver, who's hospitalized, is being questioned as a possible suspect, but that investigators are also looking at possible trouble with safety equipment.

    According to eyewitness accounts and video of the crash, speed may have been a factor. The train was going so fast that its cars tumbled off the tracks like dominoes. One witness said he saw the train "coming out of the bend at great speed and then there was a big noise."

    An analysis of the video by The Associated Press indicates that the train was traveling at least 89 mph and possibly faster than 100 mph. The speed limit in the area is 50 mph.