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Tuesday, September 28, 1999 Published at 18:50 GMT 19:50 UK


Weeping Southall crash driver apologises

Larry Harrison: Denied he was wholly responsible for the crash

The driver of the train that crashed at Southall, killing seven people, was led weeping from the inquiry into the accident.

Larry Harrison, who was speaking about the crash in public for the first time, had to take a break while giving evidence.

The BBC's Simon Montague reports from the inquiry
Nearly 150 people were injured when the Swansea to London service hit a freight train in September 1997.

The inquiry heard a tape recording of Mr Harrison sobbing as he reported the accident by phone from the side of the track.

[ image: The train went through two yellow warning signals]
The train went through two yellow warning signals
In it, he described how he was packing some documents in a bag when he suddenly saw a red danger signal.

He told the inquiry he had immediately applied the brakes, but realised a collision was inevitable.

He said that when he left Cardiff, there had been a fault on a sound warning system. In these circumstances, drivers were allowed to continue the journey, relying on their sight to avoid potential dangers.

Victim's mother Maureen Kavanagh gives her reaction to the day's events
However, he told the inquiry he had failed to spot two yellow warning signals.

Mr Harrison initially said he did not feel responsible for the crash. But after further questioning, he admitted that he was partly to blame.

He said: "Yes, we are all human. I made a mistake."

Mr Harrison said he had now retired and would never drive a train again.

"I wish to express my deepest sympathy to the bereaved families and also the passengers who were injured. I want to say I'm very, very sorry for what happened on that day," he told the hearing.

Criminal case dropped

Mr Harrison denied suggestions from witnesses that he had pulled into stations with his feet on the train's dashboard.

He said he might have had one leg on a raised ledge to stretch it to avoid getting cramp.

A criminal case against Mr Harrison was dropped after his legal team gave the prosecution a psychiatric report.

The inquiry into the accident is expected to last for another nine weeks.

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27 Sep 99 | UK
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