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Thursday, June 4, 1998 Published at 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK

World: Europe

'Everybody closed their eyes in disbelief'

There is now little hope of more survivors being found

A survivor of the German rail disaster has described how passengers suspected something was wrong when an "uncomfortable rattling" started 10 minutes before the crash.

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Wolf-Ruediger Schliebener, who was travelling in one of the rear carriages, said: "I had the feeling that maybe something was lying on the tracks. People looked at each other, shocked," he said.

He said the rattling subsided and then restarted a moment before train cars jumped the tracks.

Mr Schliebener said: "I held on and ducked down because one had the feeling of being thrown through the air, and then thank God it came to a standstill," he said.

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"Then I saw in the distance to the front where all the cars were chaotically laying all over."

"The window was cracked but there was a stone and I used that to break it open further. Thank God, a conductor came past at that time and he pulled me out. I realised how lucky I had been to get out at all."

Andrew Davidson: "Train stood no chance"
British painter-decorator Andrew Davidson was in a line of cars waiting yards from the crash scene moments before the accident happened.

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He said: "There had been a car accident with the car coming off the bridge onto the railway track.

"Out of the blue came the express train. Everybody closed their eyes in disbelief.

"The train had no chance to stop. There was an almighty crash that seemed to go on for eternity."

Mr Davidson opened his eyes to "utter devastation." Carriages were crushed under the collapsed bridge.

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He said: "It was as if a child had smashed up a model railway track.

"There were carriages on top of each other. The bridge had come down on to the last three carriages and totally flattened them."

Federal police spokesman Ernst-Rainer Leohardt said: "There were people lying near the destroyed bridge. I saw wagons under the bridge. It was really horrible."

'Survivors went by carrying luggage'

British soldiers from a nearby base were among the first rescuers on the scene.

Colour Sergeant Phil Forsyth said they offered manpower and assistance in carrying stretchers and equipment.

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He said: "Five or six carriages were piled on top of each other causing utter devastation.

Hannelore Domkewitz said she ran the 100 metres from her home to the tracks as survivors with bloodied hands staggered toward her.

She ran home to get blankets and bed sheets to cover the injured and dead. "But there were also survivors who went by with their luggage. They were all in shock," she said.

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German Railways' press release (in German)

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