MADRID – Spain's prime minister and prince were among the somber throngs who crowded in and around Santiago de Compostela's soaring ochre cathedral for a memorial Mass on Monday for the 79 people killed in a train derailment last week.
The cathedral is famous for welcoming thousands of pilgrims who every year hike an ancient footpath across northern Spain known as the Way of St. James. On Monday night, it welcomed thousands of mourners instead.
The train derailed just outside the city on Wednesday, the eve of the region's biggest celebration, the Festival of St. James, honoring Santiago's patron saint.
Those festivities were canceled for three days of national mourning. Black ribbons now adorn empty festival venues. The city's sports arena was converted into a morgue.
"It's not easy to comprehend or accept this reality," the archbishop of Santiago, Julian Barrio, said in his sermon. "But I say to you, let our pain not be wasted."
Crown Prince Felipe, his wife, Princess Letizia, and sister Princess Elena attended the service along with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other political leaders.
Investigators are trying to comprehend how Spain's rail safety systems might have failed.
They plan to unveil data from the train's data recorders -- the so-called black boxes -- on Tuesday. The devices include audio recordings of conversations between the driver and station dispatchers, as well as technical information on the train's speed and any possible mechanical problems.
Initial reports suggested that the driver, 52-year-old Francisco Garzon, may have been going at more than twice the recommended speed for the dangerous curve where the train careened off the tracks.
He was arrested within hours of the crash and released on bail late Sunday, having been provisionally charged with 79 counts of reckless homicide. He surrendered his passport and driver's license and must report to police weekly.
Another 70 victims remain hospitalized, many in critical condition.
Garzon was questioned by a Spanish judge for several hours Sunday. Local newspapers quote unnamed judicial sources as saying the driver took responsibility for the accident, saying he was distracted and lost track of when he was supposed to brake ahead of the curve.
First responders were quoted as saying Garzon was bloodied and distraught, telling bystanders that he would rather die than see the damage he'd caused.
Meanwhile, police in Switzerland said at least 35 people were injured in a head-on collision between two trains late Monday. One person had yet to be recovered from the wreckage near the station of Granges-pres-Marnand, on a regional line 30 miles southwest of the Swiss capital, Bern, the Associated Press reported.
Frayer is a special correspondent.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times