The disappearance of 18-year-old Álvaro Prieto on October 12th, 2023, sparked a massive search effort in Seville, Spain. Prieto, a soccer player for Córdoba CF, was last seen at the Seville-Santa Justa train station, where he was scheduled to board a train back home to Córdoba after visiting friends in Seville.
But Prieto never arrived in Córdoba, launching a missing persons investigation by Seville police.
After days of searching hospitals and homeless shelters and scouring security footage, police focused their investigation on the train station and surrounding area. Police searched the train tracks near Santa Justa station with drones and canine units, believing Prieto may not have left the vicinity of the station at all.
The investigation took a tragic turn on October 16th when a news crew from public broadcaster RTVE filming background footage at Santa Justa station happened to capture images of a body trapped between two train cars. The body was dressed similarly to how Prieto was last seen – beige pants, a green linen shirt, and white sneakers. Police were immediately notified and cordoned off the area.
Controversy Over RTVE Airing Unedited Footage
In a controversial move, RTVE aired the unedited footage during a live morning talk show before police had even arrived at the scene. The footage clearly showed a zoom-in on the body trapped between the train cars. RTVE labeled it an “exclusive” and “breaking news.”
There was immediate backlash on social media, with many outraged that RTVE would air such graphic images without warning. Critics said it was insensitive to Prieto’s family and disrespected the victim’s dignity. Some called for the footage to be removed from RTVE’s digital platforms.
RTVE apologized shortly after, with the talk show host saying the images should have never aired. The network said it deeply regretted the decision and that the footage had been deleted. An internal investigation was launched into how the live broadcast was allowed to continue.
Autopsy and Final Identification
After police cordoned off the area where the body was found, a judicial commission arrived to recover the remains formally. Police waited for forensic results before officially confirming the body belonged to Prieto.
The autopsy was crucial, as investigators needed to rule out the possibility that the body had been placed between the train cars. Police pursued the theory that Prieto may have been crushed trying to sneak onto a train. Electrocution was another potential cause of death being examined.
Adding to the mystery, train operator Renfe said the train the body was found on had been out of service since August after an accident. The train had not moved or been serviced in months.
Finally, on October 17th, Seville police scientifically confirmed that the body found between the train cars was Álvaro Prieto.
Theories on Prieto’s Disappearance and Death
With the identification, investigators continued piecing together what happened to Prieto between arriving at Santa Justa station on October 12th and discovering his body on the 16th.
Police determined that the train where Prieto was found was not the Cordoba-bound train he had a ticket for but rather a regional train heading to Cadiz and Malaga. This suggested Prieto may have attempted to sneak onto a different train after missing his original departure.
Witnesses said Prieto appeared intoxicated and was ejected from the train station and surrounding rail yard several times. It’s possible he tried to slip through a gap in the fence to gain access to the tracks and hide inside or under a train. Police found no evidence that he ever left the vicinity of Santa Justa station.
While an accident seems most likely, some unanswered questions remain. Police are still investigating how railway infrastructure operator ADIF did not find Prieto’s body during weeks of the train sitting idle. The results of the autopsy will shed more light on Prieto’s exact cause and time of death.
Mourning and Remembrances
The confirmation of Prieto’s death sparked an outpouring of grief across Córdoba and the Spanish soccer community. Flags were flown at half-mast, and moments of silence were held before matches across the country.
Prieto’s club, Córdoba CF, expressed its condolences, saying, “he will always be in our hearts.” Teammates remembered Prieto as a talented, charismatic young player who was set for a bright future in the game.
Makeshift memorials appeared outside Córdoba’s stadium with flowers, candles, and photos honoring Prieto’s life and career. Fans held vigils to grieve the tragic loss of a life cut far too short.
Prieto’s case is a reminder of the importance of mental health support for young athletes dealing with the pressures of fame and expectation. Prieto’s family hopes his legacy will include more resources dedicated to emotional well-being in sports.
While questions remain about that fateful night in Seville, the soccer world is united in mourning the loss of one of its brightest prospects. Álvaro Prieto’s memory will live on in the hearts of Córdoba fans and players forever.