A Houston-area woman involved in one of Europe's deadliest train accidents passed away late Saturday evening, according to family members.
Government officials in the Spanish town of Santiago De Compostela said Myrta Fariza is the 79th person to die from the accident. The eight-car, 218-passenger high speed train derailed as it was navigating a curve on Wednesday.
"She's been the backbone and soul of the family," said Fariza's son-in-law, Brian Buerkett. "There's never been a person that's ever met her that has ever said anything ill about her. She's one of the most kind hearted people who's completely selfless."
Burkett said Fariza, her husband Robert and several family members were in Rome attending the wedding of one of their three daughters. Buerkett said Fariza and her husband decided to stay in Europe to do some sightseeing. Burkett said he and his wife, Dominique, had just arrived home in Pearland when they received the call about the accident. Fariza's husband survived the accident. Buerkett said his wife, along with other immediate family members, raced back to Spain to be with their mother.
"You hear about these things, this isn't true life to most people, this is so surreal," said Buerkett. "It feels like a horrible nightmare, just 'when are we going to wake up' kind of thing."
In addition to the staggering death toll, officials in Spain said 72 passengers remained hospitalized, 22 of whom are still in critical condition.
Buerkett said his wife informed him black ribbons were being worn by people throughout Spain to show support for the victims and their families.
The train's conductor was taken into custody and formally charged with 79 counts of homicide by professional recklessness on Sunday.
"I can't speak for my family, only for myself, but I hope people find it in their heart to forgive this man," said Buerkett. "We're all human and make mistakes. Whether or not some of our mistakes are bigger or smaller, unfortunately, he's got a lot on his soul now too."
Buerkett said Fariza was not only the heart of her family, she also served her community as a Harris County juvenile parole officer.
Buerkett said the family is still working out the logistics of bringing their mother home. The family has setup a "Hope for Myrta" Facebook page.