BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 1 March, 2002, 20:37 GMT
Rail crash victim's final call
Scene of the crash on Friday morning
The van was smashed to pieces
The man killed in the Lincoln rail crash was on the phone to the police when the train ploughed into his van, it has emerged.

John Fletcher, 47, from Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, was trying to raise the alarm when his delivery van was hit at Nocton, eight miles south east of Lincoln.

Mr Fletcher leaves a wife, Sally, and twin sons aged 17 and a 20-year-old daughter.

It has also been revealed one of the officers investigating Thursday's incident, Inspector Dick Holmes, had known Mr Fletcher for 20 years.

John Fletcher, 47
John Fletcher: "Reliable and conscientious"

"This is difficult for me because I knew him. I have known him for most of my life," he said.

Mr Fletcher has also been described by his employers as a "reliable and conscientious" driver.

Fourteen people on the train were taken to hospital suffering minor injuries - police say the situation could have been far worse.

The accident happened on the first anniversary of the Selby rail disaster in which 10 people lost their lives after a similar road-rail crash.

At dawn on Friday, police and crash investigators started examining the scene of the crash.

Mr Fletcher had been driving along the B1188, a dead-end road leading to an industrial estate, when his van smashed through a brick wall and fell six metres (20 feet) onto the tracks.

Inspector Dick Holmes of Lincolnshire Police
Inspector Dick Holmes: "Very lucky" there were not more hurt

A former farmer, Mr Fletcher had started working as a delivery man for cleaning products firm, Green of Lincoln.

Peter Green, a partner with the firm, said: "John was a reliable and conscientious driver and warehouseman.

"He had driven the van to Grimsby and back during the morning and was returning home after work at 1745 GMT.

"We are devastated by the loss and have a deep sense of shock."

Speaking of his friendship with Mr Fletcher, Inspector Holmes said: "He was a very fine man. I played hockey with him for some 20 years.

"He was a very sound person and he will be greatly missed."

Mr Fletcher's van was struck at 1830 GMT by the 1542 service from Birmingham New Street to Sleaford via Lincoln.

'Break windows'

Police said the vehicle, which was pushed 40 metres along the track, had been shattered into "1,000 pieces, if not more".

Forty one people were on the train, 14 of them including the driver were taken to Lincoln Country Hospital.

Passengers on the train described the panic and confusion following the impact.

Crash scene
Cheryl Beetlestone, from Shropshire, said: "We all had to get out ourselves, the doors would not open.

"We had to break windows and climb out of them. We could smell petrol and everyone was screaming."

The incident comes only three days after two reports were issued into the Selby accident, one of which said a repeat of such a disaster could be expected only every 300 to 400 years.

In the Selby incident, 10 people died when a Land Rover plunged off the M62 and onto the East Coast mainline, to be hit by a passenger train which then collided with a goods train.

Just hours after Mr Fletcher's death, firefighters in Northumberland were forced to strap a car to a fire engine to prevent it falling off a bridge onto the East Coast Mainline

The 17-year-old driver was still inside and took 90 minutes to free before eventually being flown by helicopter to Wansbeck District Hospital.

The BBC's Tom Symonds
"Again the design of the road is being questioned here"
Inspector Dick Holmes, Lincolnshire Police
"For some reason John missed taking a left hand bend"
Richard Clifton, Health and Safety Executive
"Rail travel is still safer than going by car"

click here to go to Lincolnshire
See also:

28 Feb 02 | England
Relatives remember Selby dead
25 Feb 02 | England
Call to boost bridge safety
28 Feb 01 | UK
When road meets rail
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories