Several cars on a high-speed train in northwest Spain derailed on Wednesday as the train sped around a sharp corner in the tracks. The rest of the train slammed into a concrete wall as it continued to move, flipped onto its side and skidded across the tracks before several cars were engulfed in flames.
The crash, one of the worst in Spanish history, killed at least 78 people and sent more than 140 other passengers to the hospital when it derailed near Santiago, in the northwest region of Galicia, just after 8:40 p.m. local time on Wednesday, officials said.
At least five Americans were injured in the crash, according to The Guardian. Of those injured, 95 are still in the hospital and 32 are in critical condition, The Guardian reported.
Although the train did not experience any technical problems – the president of the state railway firm Renfe said it passed an inspection that morning – some have speculated that it may have been traveling more than twice the speed limit as it took the curve, BBC reported. One of the train's conductors is currently under investigation.
"He is not being charged by a judge at the moment – it is all at a police level," Maria Pardo Rios, a spokeswoman for the Galicia regional supreme court, told CNN.
The train was approaching its destination when it crashed, according to CNN. It was carrying 218 passengers on a six-hour trip from Madrid to Ferrol, a town about an hour north of Santiago.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a statement that he was "shocked" to learn of the crash and declared that there will be three days of official mourning in Spain.
"As you all know, today is a difficult day," Rajoy said. "Today we experienced a terrible, dramatic accident, which I fear will for long remain in our memories."
The city of Santiago was preparing celebrations for its festival of Saint James, scheduled to take place on Thursday.
"For someone from Santiago, like myself, believe me, this is the saddest Day of Saint James of my life," Rajoy said in the statement.
Tens of thousands of Christians make the pilgrimage each year to attend religious ceremonies and celebrations, but city officials canceled the festivities in light of the accident.
"July 24 will no longer be the eve of a day of celebration but rather one commemorating one of the saddest days in the history of Galicia," said Alberto Nunez Feijoo, president of Galicia, according to The Associated Press.
Emergency responders reportedly worked through the night on Wednesday to free any passengers who remained trapped in the cars.
One of the first people to reach the scene was firefighter Jaime Tizon, according to BBC.
"I'm coming from hell, I couldn't tell you if the engine was on fire, or one of the carriages or what," he said.
Another man, Ricardo Martinez, told ABC News that he and others went toward the tracks when they heard a loud noise.
"I helped getting a few injured and bodies out of the train," Martinez, 47, told ABC. "I went into one of the cars but I'd rather not tell you what I saw there."