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Twelve people died and 14 others were injured when a passenger train slammed into a group of young revellers crossing a railway track instead of using an underground passageway in Spain, officials said.

The accident happened as a group of about 30 people who had gotten off a commuter train at the Castelldefels Playa station some 25 kilometres south of Barcelona attempted to cross the tracks at around 11:30 pm local time on Wednesday.

Many were headed to the beach for the annual San Juan festivities, which celebrate the year’s shortest night with bonfires, fireworks and dancing, when they were struck by an intercity train travelling between the eastern cities of Alicante and Barcelona.

“It is a day of sadness and mourning on a night that should be of festivity, of a street party,” the president of the regional government of Catalonia, Jose Montilla, said after visiting the scene of the accident.

One of the injured is in a critical condition and two others are in serious conditions, said the health minister for the regional government of Catalonia, Marina Geli.

All of the injured are under the age of 28 except for one woman who is 45, according to public radio.

“The impact was brutal. The sound was like that of rocks being crushed but it was humans,” Andres, who runs a supermarket at the station and who witnessed the accident, told the online edition of daily newspaper El Mundo.

Witnesses said an underground pedestrian passageway was crowded at the time of the accident, prompting many people to opt for crossing the tracks. Some told Spanish media that the underground passageway was too narrow.

Castelldefels mayor Joan Sau said an elevated crosswalk over the tracks was closed in October due to remodelling works at the train station and it was replaced by the underground passageway.

“If the underground passageway had been used we obviously would not be talking about this tragedy,” he told news radio Cadena Ser.

Transport Minister Jose Blanco promised a full investigation into the causes of the accident.

In a statement, state-owned rail network Renfe said the train which struck the passengers was travelling below the recommended speed when it passed through the station and it issued warning sounds before it arrived as is the norm.

Passengers on the train were unhurt. The rail line was closed following the accident.

Spanish media said it was the worst rail accident in Spain since 19 people were killed and 38 injured in a June 2003 collision between a passenger train and a freight train in the south-eastern town of Chinchilla. ABC

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