'There Was No Screaming, Just Eerie Silence. A Woman's Bone Was Sticking out of Her Leg'; YORKSHIRE TRAIN DISASTER

By Poole, Keith; Wallace, Sam | The Evening Standard (London, England), February 28, 2001 | Go to article overview

'There Was No Screaming, Just Eerie Silence. A Woman's Bone Was Sticking out of Her Leg'; YORKSHIRE TRAIN DISASTER


Poole, Keith, Wallace, Sam, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: KEITH POOLE;SAM WALLACE

A GARDENER who lives next to the rail disaster scene wept as he told how he was awoken by his house shaking from the impact of the collision, and how he rushed to help survivors struggle free of the wreckage.

"I heard the horrible noise and it shook the whole house," said Andy Whittles, 64, who runs Bridgeside Nurseries only a few yards from the crash site. "Imagine being woken up at 6.20am to have to make an emergency call like that.

"I grabbed some ladders and went to one of the carriages and started smashing the windows. I could hear people inside and I must have got at least 12 of them out.

There were men and women all bloodied and shocked but at least they were walking. One of them was a teenage girl from Sydney who was crying.

"There were people in there that I just knew I couldn't help. I was in a bad way and just sat there completely traumatised."

Watching in tears as firemen continued to try to rescue the last-known survivor, Mr Whittles continued: "My daughter lives on the other side of the railway line. The freight train smashed into their garden and it is lucky they are alive.

"We went over there and pulled the driver of the freight train out and he was able to walk. But all we could see of the driver of the passenger train was his arm sticking out. He had been buried in the wreckage."

Other residents of the small village hurried to comfort survivors as they were pulled free, making them cups of tea, said Mr Whittles. "The 12 people I helped were very, very grateful and I am sure I will stay in contact with them for the rest of my life".

Charles Watkinson, who also lives next to the track, described the sound of the impact as a "loud rumbling".

He said: "What surprised me was that there was so much diesel about. There was even diesel on top of the bridge, it was absolutely soaked.

Obviously the impact had caused it to be spilled around.

"I walked over and at first thought it was just a freight train. But then I looked beyond the bridge and realised a passenger express had come off the rails.

"There was no screaming - just an eerie silence. One woman had a bone sticking out of her leg. She must have been in pain but she was trying to help another passenger.

"In one carriage there were four people. I don't think they were alive. I was just trying to smash windows to get people out. Then the emergency services arrived like the cavalry. It was extraordinary."

He continued: "It was difficult to get access - we couldn't get the doors open initially. One of the passengers was a train driver and he showed me how to open the emergency doors. We got one of the doors open on two of the carriages.

"We managed to pull a couple of people out of the carriage behind, where there were more seriously injured people.

"One carriage was absolutely mangled. The whole thing was absolute carnage. I can't believe that a train can disintegrate into so many different pieces."

The freight train came to rest yards from the home of retired power station worker Peter Hintz, 61. "I was asleep in bed and heard this tremendous noise outside," he said.

"There was a bang followed by screeching and scraping, and I knew immediately something was wrong. …

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