Inquest Into Rail Deaths

A railway worker has told an inquest how he tried to fight a fire following an explosion in a tunnel underneath the Thames which killed two of his colleagues in August 2005

40 year old Locomotive shunter Darren Brown from Manchester died at the scene of the fire at Swanscombe, while train driver Douglas Lynch (pictured right) who was 50 and from Folkestone died four days later while being treated at a specialist burns unit.

The pair were working on the second phase of construction of the Channel Tunnel rail link between Cheriton near Folkestone and St Pancras in London, when the gear box of a maintenance train they were using exploded.

Fellow worker Kevin Rix, who was one of the first on the scene, has told the inquest how he came across Mr Lynch's severely burnt body lying on the ground near a train they had been using to carry materials.

He said: I just couldn't believe that it was him. He was totally black, he was severely burnt. I knew it was really serious.

Mr Rix said Mr Lynch, who was known as Dougie, was conscious but was "in a lot of pain''. He told jurors that after radioing for help he instructed Mr Moore to stay with Mr Lynch while he went looking for Mr Brown.

"When I looked into the locomotive I just couldn't imagine that someone was going to be alive in there,'' he said.

He said he could not walk down the tunnel any further due to the "acrid'' smoke so he instead tried to fight the fire that was still raging in the locomotive with some fire extinguishers he found nearby.

The inquest heard Mr Brown's body was not found until some hours later, and was lying around 500m away from the locomotive.

A post-mortem examination on the father-of-two found he had died of multiple injuries including flash burns and a severe head injury, while Mr Lynch, also a father-of-two, later died of severe burns.

The men, who both had years of experience, had taken over the locomotive from two colleagues after lunch and had been warned it seemed to have a mechanical problem as it had already broken down twice that morning.

Christopher Sutton-Mattocks, counsel to the inquest, told jurors an examination of the locomotive concluded that there had been an explosion in its gear box, and he said that what caused the explosion to take place would be a matter for jurors to consider.

The speed the vehicle was travelling, the suitability of the locomotive for the job in hand and whether it was powerful enough, along with its maintenance record and the health and safety precautions that were taken, would also be matters for the jury to look at.

The inquest continues.