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18 August 2010, 05:31
Twenty-one people were injured, one of them seriously, when a train collided with a sewage tanker on an unmanned rail crossing in Suffolk yesterday afternoon.
The front carriage of the two-car National Express East Anglia service, which was carrying more than 20 passengers, derailed after the crash at Little Cornard near Sudbury, Suffolk, yesterday.
The lorry driver, a 38-year-old man, was in custody after being arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving and several railway safety offences.
Witnesses spoke of hearing a sound like a bomb explosion when the train and truck collided at 5.35pm, and then seeing dazed, bleeding passengers wandering around next to the track.
The lorry was also split open by the crash impact, spilling slurry across the scene.
Of those hurt, British Transport Police (BTP) said one person trapped on the train received life-threatening injuries and was in intensive care. Five other people remained in hospital overnight with non-serious injuries, with 15 others described as ``walking wounded'' who also received treatment.
The driver of the 1731 Sudbury to Marks Tey service suffered a suspected fractured vertebrae, and was being treated at Colchester General Hospital. All patients were taken to hospital - the majority to Colchester General Hospital, one or two to West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and one of the more seriously injured by air to Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge.
Lee Bloomfield, 17, from Colchester, was on board and described what happened.
"I got on at Sudbury and about five minutes after there was a collision''."Everything shot forward. My chest went into the table in front of me."There was a loud bang but everybody was shocked, so it was quite quiet. I didn't know what was going on.
"A couple of people had nose bleeds and somebody's mouth was bleeding.''
He added: "I went to Colchester General Hospital. They X-rayed me and checked me over. I'm OK, but I have pains in my chest.''
A spokesman for Colchester General Hospital said of the six people kept in hospital overnight, one was in a critical but stable condition. He suffered severe abdominal injuries, the spokesman said. The other five victims - three men and two women - should be discharged later today. Their injuries included fractured ribs and cuts.
National Express East Anglia said there were about 20 passengers on board the train.
Managing director Andrew Chivers said: "Our first priority is the welfare of our passengers and train crew. Our thoughts are with those who are injured and their families.''
Train services were being replaced by a bus service on the Sudbury to Marks Tey route today, with the line unlikely to reopen before Friday, Network Rail said.
The crossing is a user-worked crossing with gates and telephone, and it is understood the Network Rail signaller did not receive a phone call from the user of the crossing.
Jack Barnett, 65, a retired lorry driver who lives about 100 yards from the scene of the crash, said: "We were sitting having our tea. There was a very, very loud bang. I've never heard anything like it. I thought it was an aeroplane crash or a bomb going off. I came running out to see what had happened and we saw that the train had crashed. I ran down there. Two or three local lads had got down there sharpish and were helping people get off. The train was upright but the passengers had been knocked about. They had cuts and bruises.''
He said the train had hit a tanker, and that the tanker driver was Polish.
"I saw the police put handcuffs on him. They carted him off.''
Mr Barnett added: "The tanker was cut in half. There was sewage over the line and the smell was - oh dear.''
Eric Kinnard, 77, a retired motorcycle engineer, who also lives nearby, said 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,'' he said.
"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.''
He added: "I think that the bang must have been because the tank was a vacuum tank and it would have exploded. "The two carriages went through the tanker, so one half of the tanker was on one side of the line, and one on the other.
"The driver of the tanker was very lucky not to have been killed, it must have just hit the tank and not the cab.'' He said trains came through normally at 50 or 60mph.
Superintendent Phil Trendall of BTP said: "Clearly, if the train had turned over the injuries could have been greater. We are just grateful the injuries were no greater in seriousness or in number.''
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