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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 November, 2004, 18:40 GMT
Surveying the mangled wreckage
By Stephen Robb
BBC News in Berkshire

There is not much more to the landscape around the village of Ufton Nervet than flat, muddy fields.

So by Sunday morning the blinking lights of the emergency services attending the previous night's train derailment can be seen for miles in most directions.

Train derailment site
All eight carriages left the tracks in the accident
Police cordons seal the roads leading to the crash site - members of the media are directed to The Spring Inn around a mile away in Sulhamstead, Berkshire.

Barman Gareth Warne, 23, said journalists began arriving en masse as dawn broke to shed light on the carnage nearby.

Thames Valley Police ferry reporters and photographers to Ufton Nervet two van-loads at a time.

We are dropped off at The Winning Hand pub, which looks straight down a road to the level crossing where the 1735 First Great Western service from Paddington to Plymouth collided with a car.

Around 12 hours earlier, the pub was being used by ambulance staff to treat dozens of passengers and by police planning their operation.

Everybody was just sitting around quietly. One of the medical people said that was natural and that the shock comes later
Ian Callaway
Landlord, The Winning Hand
Landlord Ian Callaway said: "When something like this first happens, they have just got to find the nearest place and last night that was us.

"We were used as a bit of an assessment centre for the walking wounded."

He said that between around 1845 and 2200 GMT there was a "conveyor belt" of passengers being assessed by paramedics and sent on to hospital or a local hotel.

"Everybody was just sitting around quietly," Mr Callaway said.

"One of the medical people that came down here said that was natural and that the shock comes later."

I get my first clear view of the train from the road in front of the pub, over about a quarter of a mile of fields.

The nearest carriage, which would have been at the rear as the train was travelling, lists about 40 degrees from the vertical but looks relatively free of damage.

It is clear, even from this distance and amid the mist and drizzle, that the twisted shape of the rest of the train tells a more violent story.

Level crossing near Ufton Nervet, Berkshire
Police tape seals off the site of the deadly collision
On the 500 metre or so walk to the level crossing, the car park of a nursery has been overrun by police and fire service vehicles, cabins and tents, and dozens of officers.

Vehicle markings announce the presence of the Specialist Search and Recovery Team, Major Incident Support, and the Forensic Investigation Unit among others - titles that hint, as if it were needed, at the severity of the tragedy that has unfolded here.

Ufton Nervet's automatic level crossing is bound in police tape but bears no obvious scars from the crash.

About five metres from the crossing, though, against the verge at the side of the tracks, is a dark and sinister metal shape.

It is crushed and mangled almost beyond recognition, bearing only the faintest resemblance to the ordinary motor car it once was.

The wreckage of the car involved in the crash
The car's driver was among the six people killed in the crash
It is a chilling sight, starkly illustrating the force of Saturday's collision. As I watch, police officers put a tent over the car, presumably to begin meticulous forensic examination.

Looking down the tracks from the crossing, the point where the train must have rolled, skidded and thundered to a stop is about 100 metres away.

There is almost no visible activity around the train at this moment.

Iain Cox, chief fire officer of Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, had earlier explained that the "emergency phase of the operation" was over and the "recovery phase" getting under way.

With the painstaking process of recovering evidence ahead, what is left of the 1735 Paddington to Plymouth train lies eerily still.

If you had just seen the train with no idea of the numbers, you would have thought that hundreds must have been killed or injured
David Rendel MP
It is impossible to imagine what it was like to be on the train when it hit the car at around 1815 GMT on Saturday, but the freakish positions and twisted shape of the carriages force me to marvel that more people were not seriously injured.

After visiting the site, Newbury MP David Rendel said: "I was surprised by two things - how badly mangled parts of the train looked and, given that, that there were so few people killed and injured.

"If you had just seen the train with no idea of the numbers, you would have thought that hundreds must have been killed or injured."

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