ARLINGTON, Va. (CBSDC/AP) — A Fairfax County woman on her way to see her son, who had completed a Catholic pilgrimage, was among the 78 people who died in the wreck of a train in Spain this week, said Catholic Church officials from the diocese where she worked.
The Diocese of Arlington said Ana Maria Cordoba was killed; she was the only American who died in the crash. Cordoba, a benefits specialist, was traveling with her husband, Philippe, and her daughter, Christina, a rising senior at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, according to the Catholic News Service, a division of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The service reported that her husband and daughter were in stable condition at a hospital.
Family members were on their way to see the Cordobas’ son, who had completed a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela or “Way of St. James” in Spain. The spiritual journal, which can take several routes that are several-hundred miles long, has been done for thousands of years across the Spanish countryside. Pilgrims finish at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where believers say Jesus’ apostle St. James is buried.
The journey was featured in a film, “The Way,” starring Martin Sheen.
In a statement, Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde said the death is a cause of “immense grief” not only for the family but for those in the diocesan offices, where Cordoba worked in the human resources office and her mother, Maria Angel, is an executive assistant for a vicar general in the diocese.
“(I)n the midst of this unimaginable tragedy and sense of profound loss, we cling to the promise of the Risen Lord Jesus that eternal life awaits those who believe in Him,” Loverde said in the statement. “Because we are family, we will walk with them, supporting them through prayer and with much care.”
At least five Americans were hurt in the crash, including Stephen Ward, an 18-year-old Mormon missionary from Bountiful, Utah. He said the train lifted off the tracks “like a roller coaster” before smashing into a concrete wall.
Ward said an information screen for passengers showed that the train was traveling 194 kph (121 mph) moments before the crash. He said that speed was nearly double the speed they had been cruising at since leaving Madrid earlier that afternoon.
Rafael Catala, a senior transport official in Spain’s Development Ministry, said it appeared to be going much faster than the track’s speed limit of 80 kph (50 mph). An Associated Press analysis of security camera video of the crash indicated the train hit the bend at the crash site going twice the speed limit or more.
Spanish police said Friday that the driver has been arrested and would be questioned in connection with the accident.
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