Trains, planes, and automobiles: Fatalities in Spain and ‘close calls’ at home

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NEW YORK (PIX11) – The official death toll from the horrific train derailment in northwestern Spain  was changed to 78 Friday, as officials revealed an American mom was among the dead.

And at the end of a week when Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal dominated newspaper and TV headlines, PIX 11 looked at the transportation stories that impacted our everyday lives, some of them happening close to home.

The driver of the Spanish train, Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, was arrested in his hospital room on Friday, suspected of reckless behavior that turned criminal.  There are reports Garzon Amo bragged on Facebook last year that he once drove his train at speeds of 124 miles per hour.  His Facebook site has since been closed down.   And Garzon Amo was crushed by what had happened, when police took him to the hospital.  “I messed up,”  he reportedly said.  “I want to die.  So many people dead.  So many people dead.”

An American passenger who survived the wreck, 18 year old Stephen Ward, said he glanced at a TV screen in his  car that listed the train’s speed, seconds before the locomotive derailed.  “And it was very fast,” Ward recalled.  “All of a sudden, one set of wheels left the rails.  You could feel us leave the track.”

Ward—a Mormon missionary from Utah–blacked out, when the train—which was traveling 121 miles per hour—hit a concrete wall on the curve and then spun sideways, out of control.

The speed limit for that curve was supposed to be 50 miles per hour.

78 people were killed, including an American mother of two, Ana Maria Cordoba.  She was 47 years old and worked as an employee with the Diocese of Arlington in northern Virginia.  She was traveling with her husband and daughter, who survived.  The family was visiting Cordoba’s son in Spain, who’s an exchange student.  He was not on the train, when the accident happened.

The Thursday train accident in Spain was the latest transportation accident this week to make major headlines.

It came three days after a Southwest Airlines jet landing at LaGuardia Airport in Queens skidded more than two thousand feet, when its nose collapsed.

Passengers were jolted out of their seats, but only ten received minor injuries.  The National Transportation Safety Board announced Thursday the pilot made an error when landing, by putting the nose gear down first.  The jet is supposed to touch down on its middle landing gear first, before the nose gear touches down.  The end result Monday was the nose collapsing on the tarmac, with the pilot losing control of the steering, until the Boeing 737 with 150 people on board skidded to a stop.

Regarding automobiles, New York State’s tough new law on texting while driving went into effect Friday.  First-time offenders caught using a cell phone behind the wheel will be fined $230 and get five points added to their license.  Drivers who collect 11 points during an 18-month period will get their licenses suspended.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the tough law June 1st, concerned about studies showing distracted driving accidents in New York State skyrocketed 143% between 2005 and 2011.   National statistics showed there were 25,000 injuries or deaths caused by distracted driving in 2011.  Compare that to 4,300 injuries or deaths blamed on drunk driving in the same year.  The texting problem has proven to be much,  more fatal.