Mon, Nov 08, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Six people killed in high-speed train crash in England

AFP , UFTON NERVET, ENGLAND

Six people were killed and 11 seriously hurt Saturday when a high-speed train derailed after colliding with a car at a rural crossing in southern England.

In the latest of a long series of fatal rail accidents in Britain, a train carrying around 300 passengers from London to the seaside city of Plymouth via the Berkshire region hit the car by the hamlet of Ufton Nervet.

Search and rescue officials using sniffer dogs worked into the early hours of Sunday to make sure there were no other casualties hidden in the wreckage.

"We're unfortunately in a position to confirm six deceased patients, 11 serious patients" who have been taken to area hospitals, ambulance official Graham Groves told a news conference late Saturday.

Railway officials said the driver of the train was among the dead.

The official said a further 25 less seriously injured patients were removed by ambulance for medical care while dozens more were reported treated for minor cuts and bruises.

Police refused to comment on reports that the car may have been deliberately driven on to the track outside Ufton Nervet.

A spokesman for the unit that will investigate the crash said there was no immediate sign of a failure of the railway system.

"We will [also] be looking into the level crossing and whether or not any vehicles misbehaved," he added.

The investigation will begin after the emergency services have completed their work.

Rescue officials and other witnesses described a dark scene of screaming and panicked survivors, with mangled carriages and debris strewn along the tracks and neighboring farmland.

They said the eight-carriage train had completely derailed, with several carriages lying on their side.

An AFP photographer said hundreds of police and paramedics converged on the scene, lights flashing in the night sky and blocking all roads to the accident scene in a rural area near Reading.

BBC Radio 5 Live reporter Jonny Saunders, who was on the train, told of the chaos in the crash.

"Suddenly there was this extraordinary stopping sensation, I immediately thought someone had pulled the emergency cord, but it carried on, carried on, and came to a juddering halt.

"Suddenly all the lights went off, screaming, shouting, we were in the pitch black, then total chaos in the carriage for a few moments.

"I was incredibly lucky, because the carriage I was in didn't actually go over on its side -- the one in front did and the one behind did. I tried to get the hammer to break the glass, and managed to eventually get out," he said.

A farmer in the area, Richard Benyon, was at the scene shortly after the crash.

He told Sky News television local residents were inviting shocked passengers into their homes in the tiny hamlet of Ufton Nervet, doing what they could to help.

Benyon said: "I can see from the road there is definitely rolling stock lying on its side or at an angle.

"I know the crossing well. We use it every day on the farm. In my lifetime there has never been an accident there. You can go round at the barrier if you are stupid enough but I cannot believe somebody got confused," Benyon said.

The accident is the latest in a string of rail accidents in Britain in recent years.

In February 2001, a Land Rover crashed through barriers and ended up on the main east coast line at Selby. A high-speed train then hit the vehicle, derailed and slammed into an oncoming freight train, leaving 10 people dead.

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