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Thursday, 7 October, 1999, 18:57 GMT 19:57 UK
Cutting through the crash
Rescue workers
Rescue workers carry out the injured at the Paddington crash
Emergency workers at the Paddington train crash not only had to attend to the injured, but put out a major fire on the tracks and free trapped commuters.

London Train Crash
Martin Kitchen, chairman of an operations committee for British fire chiefs and chief of Surrey Fire Brigade, said the first priority would be to make sure the scene would be safe to work in.

That would involve making sure that power supplies had been turned off and no trains would come thundering through the crash site.

Once sufficient crews and equipment had been called and the fire brought under control, firefighters would help find the injured.

fire crew
Fire-fighters inspect mangled carriages at the crash near Paddington Station
"We would work with our ambulance colleagues and the police to search through the carriages and identify those who are dead, and those who are still alive and get them out and away to hospital," said Mr Kitchen.

When faced with many injured passengers, as in the crash near Paddington, rescue workers would have to decide which victims to help first.

"You would have to make a judgement there and then as to where to put your limited resources," he said.

"If you've got someone who is trapped but alive, and another who was more seriously injured, you would talk to [the trapped person] and say 'we'll come to you in a couple of minutes'. But if they were more seriously injured, you would get to them first."

'Jaws of life'

All fire crews carried a variety of cutting equipment, from basic hacksaws and axes to sophisticated hydraulic spreading and cutting equipment.

"The hydraulic equipment, known in the US and in some parts of this country as the 'jaws of life', would be able to cut through the structural work of the train," explained Mr Kitchen.

When crews had to get through a space that had been crushed, they could widen it with an air-operated spreading device much like a large balloon.

A spokesman at the scene of the crash said: "We will use high-powered cutting equipment, hydraulic cutting equipment, electric cutting equipment to actually cut holes in the carriages to get into the incident as fast as we can.

"From there, the casualties are going to be removed and handed to the ambulance service to be able to get them out and away from the accident."

See also:

07 Oct 99 | UK
07 Oct 99 | UK Politics
07 Oct 99 | UK Politics
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