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Friday, October 8, 1999 Published at 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK


Families await crash answers

Relatives of the victims visit the wreckage

Families of the dead and missing in the London rail disaster are anxiously awaiting the first report into the minutes leading up to the tragedy.

The Health and Safety Executive will reveal its interim findings at about 1400BST after a private briefing with Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.
London Train Crash

Police say that the number of people reported missing after the crash has dropped considerably from the overnight total of 127.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Andy Trotter said the Casualty Bureau had been working through the night to cross people off the list.

"We think the overall numbers will fall considerably as the day goes on," he said.

Survivor David Miles tells of an earlier escape from a burning train
But he added that the number of dead was still expected to rise from the official figure of 30.

The inquest into the deaths of the first identified victims opened on Friday.

It named the two dead drivers as Brian Cooper, 52, of Hayes, west London, and Michael Hodder, 31, of Reading.

At the site of the crash, the search for those who died is continuing with vast cranes being assembled to lift carriages and cables from the track.

Fire officers have been putting up scaffolding to secure the lead carriage of the Great Western train, carriage H, in which died an unknown number of victims.

[ image: A policeman leaves flowers at the crash site]
A policeman leaves flowers at the crash site
They will then construct a cradle inside the carriage so investigators can start work while suspended above the remains.

The HSE has made a close inspection of the site, following the police teams into each carriage.

It is expected to confirm that the crash was the result of the Thames Turbo train passing warning signals and crossing into the path of the express Great Western train near Paddington station.

Graham Hodder, the brother of the Thames train driver, said: "The speculation - and this is what it is at present - is proving very upsetting.

"Until the facts of the incident are properly known, we find it hard to accept the accusations levelled at Michael."

[ image: Scaffolding is being erected over infamous carriage H]
Scaffolding is being erected over infamous carriage H
Investigators are also reportedly to reveal that the Great Western was operating with its Automatic Train Protection system, which stops the train if it passes red lights, switched off.

Though not a factor in the crash, because the Great Western was given a green signal, it could prove highly embarrassing for operators Great Western Trains.

The company was fined £1.5m in July for breaches of safety rules on the train that crashed at Southall two years ago with the loss of seven lives.

The BBC's Bob Sinkinson: "It will be next week before the task is completed"
The Financial Times says the revelation will raise questions about the company's approach to safety. The HSE has declined to comment.

Great Western also said on Friday that the train was using a higher grade "winter mix" style of diesel which may have contributed to the devastating nature of the fire after the collision.

Click here to see the site of the crash

The Bishop of Reading: "Everyone here knows someone in the crash"
Towns and villages along the express's route into London have been grieving for those lost in the crash.

Some 50 Reading people are thought to have been killed.

The Queen has sent a message of condolence to the town expressing her sadness at the loss of life, and conveying her deepest sympathy to the families and friends of the victims and those still missing.

The Transport Minister, Lord Macdonald, and his shadow, Bernard Jenkin, visited the crash site on Friday.

The emergency number to call is 0171 834 7777. Worried relatives and friends should call the same number.

All people on the train or witnesses nearby are also asked to call the British Transport Police answerphone on 0800 405040 and leave their name and numbers so they can be contacted as part of the inquiry.

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