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Monday, 21 February, 2000, 19:52 GMT
'Never again' say train crash families

Rail lines
Crash occurred near Ladbroke Grove

The distraught mother of a Paddington rail crash victim has called for those who died in the tragedy to be honoured by ensuring a similar accident can never happen again.

Birgit Andersen tearfully read out a tribute to her daughter Charlotte as the first inquests were held into the deaths of 31 people killed in the disaster at Ladbroke Grove.

It is a matter of time before lives are lost in a similar accident if safety is not improved.
Birgit Andersen, mother of Paddington crash victim Charlotte
The tragedy occurred when a Thames Train commuter service passed a red signal and collided with a London-bound Great Western express on 5 October, last year.

Bereaved relatives of those killed in the disaster stood in silence at the central London inquest chamber as a roll call of names of those who perished was read out, taking a minute and a half.

In the centre of the inquest chamber a model train set on a table re-created the scene of the crash in miniature, with tiny carriages strewn across the tracks.

Mrs Andersen, of Virginia, USA, said her 32-year-old daughter had been killed in a crash which "could have been prevented".

Train 'flipped in the air'

"Her sister, her father and I were robbed that morning at 8.11," Mrs Andersen told the inquest.

"We feel angry as well as worried and feel it is a matter of time before lives are lost in a similar accident if safety is not improved.

"I plead that the dead of Ladbroke Grove should be honoured by ensuring that this does not happen again," Mrs Andersen told the inquest.

Thirty-one people died in the disaster
The inquests began with evidence from PC Gavin Cerasale, the first officer on the scene.

He said he was alerted to the scale of the tragedy by an eyewitness who shouted at him that he had just seen "a train flip in the air".

PC Cerasale said he rushed towards the scene but was stopped by a high fence blocking access to Eurostar workshops next to the crash.

He said he heard screams coming from the trains and immediately radioed for help.

Two fire engines were on the scene within a minute, the inquest heard.

Station officer Richard Hodson described how he was "confronted with a situation, the enormity of which took my breath away".

"There were people between the carriages and I was aware of casualties on the ground around the train," he told the inquest.

Fire officer Richard Hodson Fire officer Richard Hodson described enormity of crash scene
He said it took up to 10 minutes to prise open the security gates to get heavy rescue equipment through.

British Transport Police Detective Superintendent Nicholas Bracken and Home Office Pathologist Iain West dealt with nine of the crash victims on Monday.

They outlined the cause of death for each victim - instant in all cases so far - and in which carriage on which train they were sitting.

The family of Anthony Beeton were in court to hear how the married father of two was flung from the front of the Great Western train's first carriage into the engine, killing him instantly.

He had a habit of walking to the front of the train as it approached Paddington to give himself a head start to work, where he was an aide to the then Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam.

Unbearable pain

The family of 26-year-old Ola Bratlie spoke of their "unbearable" pain at his death.

They had travelled from Norway and listened as their lawyer acted as interpreter.

They heard how Mr Bratlie died instantly from multiple injuries.

His body was recovered from the back of the first carriage.

Delroy Manning, a 39-year-old Jamaican-born plasterer from Lewisham, south London, died of head and chest injuries after being knocked out and then thrown out of the train on impact, the court was told.

He had been travelling to a new job which he was due to start that morning in Ealing, west London.

Mr Manning, who was married with two children, was identified by dental records and documents found on his body.

The hearing was adjourned until Tuesday when another nine inquests are set to be heard.

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See also:
25 Jan 00 |  UK
Railtrack loses Paddington signal case
09 Oct 99 |  UK
Rail system failure blamed for crash
10 Oct 99 |  UK
Railtrack to be stripped of safety role

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