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New pictures: Investigation starts into rail crash horror

PUBLISHED: 11:20 18 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:46 18 August 2010

18 people were hurt in the crash, two seriously. Picture: Pete Lawson/East News

18 people were hurt in the crash, two seriously. Picture: Pete Lawson/East News

©2010Eastnews Press Agency Ltd/Peter Lawson; Eastnews Press Agency Ltd; 267 Straight Road; Colchester, Essex; England; + 44 (0) 7721

THE most seriously injured passenger from last night’s rail Suffolk crash is due to be transferred to a specialist London hospital, it has emerged.

A lorry driver has been arrested. Picture: Pete Lawson/East News

THE most seriously injured passenger from last night’s rail Suffolk crash is due to be transferred to a specialist London hospital, it has emerged.

The 58-year-old man suffered “life-threatening” injuries in the accident at the user-operated crossing at Little Cornard, near Sudbury.

He was rushed to Colchester General Hospital where he is currently on the critical care ward before his move to The Royal London Hospital which specialsises in head injuries.

It is understood he will be transferred within the next two hours.

An investigation into the crash has begun. Picture: Pete Lawson/East News

A total of 17 patients were taken to Colchester and 11 were treated and discharged last night.

Another patient was airlifted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

Six remained at Colchester overnight, including the 58-year-old, with the other five suffering injuries such as fractured ribs and were left with abdominal pain, back pain and heavy bruising.

Hospital spokesman Mark Prentice said: “We anticipate three of them will be discharged whilst the remaining two will stay with us overnight.

Casualties were flown away by air ambulance. Picture:Pete Lawson/East News

“They are all in a comfortable condition.”

The investigation into the incident will continue today although removal of the train is not expected until tomorrow at the earliest.

The accident happened at around 5.30pm when a 44 tonne tanker collided with the 5.31pm East Anglia rail service from Sudbury to Marks Tey close to the B1508 Bures Road in Little Cornard.

The crash sparked a major rescue operation with police, firefighters, paramedics and rail investigators all involved.

A spokesman for British Transport Police said: “The investigation will continue today.

“We will be looking at moving the train at some point, but that is going to be quite a task.”

The line will remain closed today and it is not expected to re-open until Friday.

The investigation into the incident will continue today although removal of the train is not expected until tomorrow at the earliest.

The accident happened at around 5.30pm yesterday when a 44 tonne tanker collided with the 5.31pm East Anglia rail service from Sudbury to Marks Tey close to the B1508 Bures Road in Little Cornard.

The line will remain closed today and it is not expected to re-open until Friday.

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther of Suffolk Constabulary confirmed police are expecting to interview the 38-year-old lorry driver, believed to be Eastern European, who was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving last night and is being held at Bury St Edmunds station.

They will also return to the site to sift through the evidence still at the scene.

Rail replacement buses have been set up for passengers.

The crossing is on a track leading to a sewage treatment plant.

A spokesman from Network Rail said: “The crossing is a user-worked crossing with gates and a telephone. The network signaller did not receive a phone call from the user of the crossing.”

Witnesses close to the scene of the carnage said they heard a sound like a “bomb” or an explosion at the time of the impact.

Eric Kinnard, 77, a retired motorcycle engineer, who lives a few hundred yards from the crossing, said: “We heard a bang and at first we thought it was a car accident down on the corner.’’

He said the crossing is used six to 10 times a day by farm sewage tankers.

“The vehicle involved was a tanker, which would have been either going to or coming from the sewage works.’’

Mr Kinnard explained that motorists wishing to cross had to use a telephone to warn the railway authorities that they wished to do so.

“There have been some near-misses over the years. You often hear a train hooter, which is a sign that something unexpected is on the crossing.

“I think it is something that has concerned the police, and I have had the police asking if I have seen people in vehicles crossing the line without asking.’’

Sharon Smith, 49, who was in her front garden 200 yards away, said: “I heard a massive bang. Everybody in the area ran to see what happened. At first I thought it was a car accident.

“But when I ran up the road I could see two carriages had hit a tanker.’’

A resident who lives just yards from the crash, but did not want to be named, dashed from his house when he heard the impact.

He said: “I got to the train and forced open one of the doors. I was expecting to see quite a lot of carnage but people were just sitting in silence, they seemed to be in total shock. There was no screaming and no panicking.

“There was a diesel pouring from the front of the train and then another explosion as the sewage tank ruptured and sent raw sewage pouring into the air.

“The people on the table seats seemed to be the worst injured. I was joined by another man and we started helping people off the train. Some were trapped and obviously had serious injuries so there was nothing we could do at that point.”

He said the driver of the train was trapped under one of the tables at the front of the carriage. “We managed to speak to him and he said he had run back into the carriage when he realised the train was going to hit the lorry.”

“Another four local residents came to help but then the police and paramedics turned up to deal with those more seriously injured.”

Another man, who joined in the rescue effort, said he rushed to the crossing with his son to see if he could help.

The man, who asked not to be named, works at the Willowmere Caravan Park on Bures Road, close to the level crossing. He said: “It was coming back over an unmanned crossing. It’s made a bit of a mess. There were about 12 or 15 on it at the time. I spoke to one of the chaps who my son helped off the train – a solicitor in Sudbury. He wasn’t very well and was taken off to Colchester General Hospital. “There were three serious (injuries) and the rest had cuts and bruises. It was mayhem – I’ve never seen so many paramedics, policeman and firemen around there.”

The articulated lorry had just deposited its load of sewage at the water treatment works run by Anglian Water and was returning towards the Bures Road when it collided with the train.

Residents who gathered close to the scene said they saw paramedics taking body-boards onto the train when many of the passengers were still on board.

One said she heard screaming at one point and saw a young child being taken off the train by paramedics.

Kerry Blinman, from Kersey Avenue, Great Cornard, said she had rushed to the scene with her husband Mike who works as a contractor for Network Rail. She said: “As soon as we heard there was a crash my husband wanted to help so I came with him. The police let him through the cordon and he began helping the wounded off the train. We have lived here for 13 years and I’ve never known of any problems on this line. When you see the state of the wreckage I’m amazed more people weren’t seriously injured or killed.”

Fire crews began leaving the scene late last night after handing over the investigation to British Transport Police.

Seven crews were called to the scene – two from Sudbury, Bury St Edmunds, Long Melford, Hadleigh and Princes Steet, Ipswich.

Two helicopters from the East Anglian Air Ambulance with three doctors on board helped ferry the casualties to nearby hospitals.

Six other frontline ambulances were called to the scene, a hazardous area response team and two more non-emergency ambulances for the walking wounded. In all, there were five ambulance officers at the scene and a fourth doctor.

Incident commander Karl Rolfe of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service said: “We have handed the incident over to British Transport Police and the Rail Accident Investigation Board. “All the serious casualties are off the train and have been conveyed to hospital by land or air ambulance. We assisted with stabilising the train which had derailed. The train came to rest over a small bridge and is at an unstable angle facing down the embankment.

“The railway authorities are dealing with the recovery of the carriages but that will obviously be a secondary consideration.” He added that the scene of the crash was being treated as a crime scene

Tim Yeo MP said: “I was travelling on the equivalent train last week. It is a terrible tragedy for the people involved and it is also very important that the value of this line should be recognised.”

National Express East Anglia confirmed that the 17.31 Sudbury – Marks Tey train service collided with a road tanker at Sewage Lane Crossing near Bures at 17.37 last night.

Andrew Chivers, National Express East Anglia’s managing director, said: “Our first priority is the welfare of our passengers and traincrew. Our thoughts are with those who are injured and their families.”

He said train services were being replaced by a bus service on the Sudbury – Marks Tey route.

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