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Tuesday, October 5, 1999 Published at 22:32 GMT 23:32 UK


Train crash: 26 dead

More bodies are among the destroyed carriages

The death toll in the Paddington rail disaster has risen to 26 and could still rise further.

London Train Crash
Overnight emergency teams have suspended the search for bodies in the tangled wreckage of the two trains, which crashed near the west London station at the height of the morning rush hour.

They say there are definitely no more survivors in the wreckage, but fear there could be an unknown number of bodies.

The crash happened at 0811BST at Ladbroke Grove, when a two-carriage service run by Thames Trains from Paddington to Bedwyn, Wiltshire, collided with a London-bound Great Western 125 express train from Cheltenham.

The BBC's Ben Brown: "This is the worst crash since 1988"
A BBC correspondent says the initial Health and Safety investigation suggests the Thames train passed one red and two yellow warning signals, ploughing into the Great Western which had been given a green light.

As well as the 26 confirmed dead, 26 are seriously injured, 98 have what are described as minor injuries, and there are 41 "walking wounded".

Police, who are treating the wreckage as a crime scene, will work throughout the night to gather evidence as rescue teams make the scene secure.

[ image:  ]
The recovery operation is expected to last well into Thursday, with the line closed for the rest of the week.

The morning rescue operation will focus on one particularly badly damaged carriage of the Great Western train, which was destroyed by fire.

It is thought up to 60 people could have been in the carriage, but police would not speculate on how many of those could have died.

Superintendent Tony Thompson, of British Transport Police, said: "We cannot say how many bodies there are still in the wreckage. It is impossible."

But he said he feared the death toll could rise to 35, the same figure as the Clapham rail disaster in 1988.

Mr Trotter was unable to confirm whether the two train drivers were among those killed.

The BBC's Jeremy Paxman grills John Prescott over why Automatic Train Protection has not been fitted to all trains
An urgent public inquiry has been ordered by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, while the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said he was "appalled by what is a truly dreadful tragedy".

The government is under mounting pressure to ensure there is no delay to the inquiry as happened after the Southall rail crash in 1997, in which seven people died and 150 were injured. That hearing only began last month.

Rail experts were critical that the delay meant vital safety lessons had not been learnt.

[ image: One of the injured is taken to hospital]
One of the injured is taken to hospital
Lawyers for the victims of the Southall crash said they would demand that their inquiry, which is due to re-open on Monday, be expanded to cover this latest rail crash.

Tuesday's crash was described as "almost a replica" of Southall. It took place on the same stretch of line.

There have been claims that the red signal which is the focus of attention over Tuesday's accident, had been passed eight times since 1993.

The same spot is also said to have been the scene of three accidents and one near-miss in recent years.

Click here to see the site of the crash

Tuesday's crash has been described as a "near head-on collision".

Survivor Phil Longman describes the crash scene
The Thames train was changing tracks when the Great Western smashed into it.

Carriages came off the track and one train burst into flames. A massive column of smoke could be seen across west London.

Survivors spoke of hearing two huge bangs, before carriages were overturned and the trains juddered to a halt.

[ image:  ]
They described hearing screams for help, and seeing passengers badly burnt and covered in blood.

Writer Jilly Cooper was one of the passengers on the express train, and escaped by crawling through a window.

"I saw this bright orange flash and thought this is it, my number has come up," she said.

The reason for the train passing the signal is not yet known. But one black box recorder has been recovered from the scene and is being checked. There are also reports that video evidence exists.

BBC Transport Correspondent Simon Montague: "The Thames train went through one red light and two yellow warnings"
Andrew McNaughton, of Railtrack, said there was a standard automatic warning system on both trains, but he would not confirm whether the systems were switched on or off.

The Health and Safety Executive has begun its own inquiry.

The Queen sent a message of sympathy to those bereaved and injured, thanking the rescue services for their work.

Emergency numbers for worried relatives and friends are 0207 834 7777 and 01793 499458.

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