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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 November, 2004, 04:50 GMT
Survivors find calm in safe haven
By Matt Maclean
BBC News, Berkshire

Mario Iotti
Mario Iotti, a visitor to the UK on business, survived the crash.

A group of shocked survivors from the derailed train were taken to a local inn less than a mile from the scene of the crash at Ufton Nervet.

They were the more fortunate walking wounded who had escaped with only minor scrapes and were hoping to continue their journey.

Most were waiting patiently at the Comfort Inn, near Beenham, for the coaches that would take them on towards their final destinations, one or two wrapped in aluminium foil blankets for warmth.

The apparent calmness of those who had lived through every train passenger's worst nightmare was striking.

Among them was 24-year-old Mario Iotti, who had flown to the UK on business from his home in Madrid, Spain, earlier that day.

He explained how the initial impact had knocked out the lights in his carriage, which then tilted over to one side and slid along the tracks, the window glass shattering.

Once it came to rest, he said, some, including a priest who was in the car, had called for people to remain calm.

It is unbelievable to think you could go through that kind of thing and even survive
Mario Iotti, survivor

Two men broke the windows with hammers, before helping their fellow passengers to climb out of the wrecked carriage.

Others used their mobile phones as makeshift torches to light the way, he said.

And as passengers emerged from the wreck of their train, locals were already heading to the scene with flashlights to offer what help they could.

"It is unbelievable to think you could go through that kind of thing and even survive," said Mario.

But he added: "Now you just worry that a lot more people were injured severely."

Mario himself, who escaped unscathed, had been travelling to Taunton to stay with his friend Tony Bonfield and Tony's partner Linda.

They were in Taunton when Mario called to tell them of the accident, but drove for two hours to pick him up.

Linda said: "I thought immediately that we'd drive over here - you don't want to be alone after something like this happens."

Scene of the crash
One eyewitness described the train like a "twisted baguette"
At Ufton Nervet, emergency services were on the scene within minutes, by all accounts, a remarkable achievement given the relative remoteness of the crash site.

While at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading - where major incident procedures were set in motion - medical staff from across the region called in to offer their assistance.

"The response from staff has been absolutely superb," said hospital communications manager Carol Deans.

Six people lost their lives in the crash, and at least five others were seriously injured.

Even the lucky ones, like Mario, will live with their memories of that November night long after any physical injuries have healed.

But the response of everyone involved - the passengers, their friends and relatives, locals, emergency workers and medical staff - demonstrated how the worst of situations can still bring out the best in human nature.

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