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Spain funeral Mass for crash victims

Source BBC News@

Tributes to crash victims on gates of cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. 27 July 2013Tributes have been left outside the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela

A large funeral Mass is due to take place in the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela, where a train crash last Wednesday claimed 79 lives.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who comes from the city, and members of the Spanish royal family are expected to attend.

The driver of the train could face multiple counts of reckless homicide but has not been formally charged.

Francisco Jose Garzon Amo was released from custody by a judge on Sunday.

He is suspected of having driven too fast on a bend, causing the train to derail.

Correspondents say the tragedy has shocked residents of Santiago de Compostela, a Catholic pilgrimage site in the north-western province of Galicia.

Train driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo. 28 July 2013Train driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo is suspected of breaking speed limits

Santiago officials had been preparing for the religious feast of St James of Compostela - Spain's patron saint - on Thursday but cancelled it after the crash.

The city's sports arena was temporarily turned into a morgue.

At the cathedral gates, pilgrims have left flowers and candles to commemorate victims of the crash.

Officials say 70 people remain in hospital, 22 of them in a critical condition.

Passport surrendered

Mr Garzon, 52, arrived at court in handcuffs on Sunday, his head scarred by an injury he suffered in the crash.

He was questioned behind closed doors for almost two hours by Judge Luis Alaez.

Later, a court statement said he had been released pending further investigations but must appear before a court once a week and is not allowed to leave Spain without permission.

His passport has been surrendered to the judge and his licence to drive a train has been suspended.

Wreckage cleared from tracks. 28 July 2013Wreckage of the eight-carriage train is gradually being cleared from the tracks

Under Spanish law, his legal status is that he is suspected of being involved in 79 counts of reckless homicide but has not been formally charged.

On Sunday, an eyewitness to the disaster told the BBC that he had overheard the driver admitting minutes after the crash that he had been going too fast.

Evaristo Iglesias, a resident of Santiago de Compostela, said he heard the driver saying he tried to slow down but "it was too late".

Mr Iglesias said the driver, who was shocked and dazed, was repeatedly "saying he wanted to die" rather than see the damage at the scene.

All eight carriages of the train careered off the tracks into a concrete wall as they sped around the curve on the express route between Madrid and the port city of Ferrol on the Galician coast.

The crash was one of the worst rail disasters in Spanish history.

Trains crash map

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