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EDITIONS
Friday, 8 October, 1999, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Police: Crash victims were so calm
Police initially suspected a fire at the nearby gasworks
The two police officers first at the scene of the London rail crash have described how stunned and burnt passengers urged them to help the most seriously injured.

Constables Gavin Cerasale and Jennifer McKenzie were on their beat nearby when they saw smoke. They arrived to find bodies littering the tracks and dazed passengers wandering across the lines.

PC Cerasale said: "It was like being caught in the middle of a training exercise.

PC Cerasale: People covered in blood insisted "we're fine"
"Somebody's going to step out from behind a screen and blow a whistle and say that's the end of it.

"I've never seen anything like it in my life."

His colleague PC McKenzie told how the passengers remained calm and were able to give the officers lucid instructions on what to do and where to help.

She said: "They were just so calm and they were helping each other. "They were relieved to see us but they looked so shocked they didn't know what was happening."

PC Cerasale said he called for assistance on his radio after the scale of the horror begun to sink in. He then searched out the worst injured passengers to try to reassure them in the few minutes it took for paramedics to arrive.

He said: "People were walking up to us with their business suits half tattered, with bits of skin falling off them and their ties burnt up to their knots."

Pc McKenzie only finished her probationary period in August
He said they saw people with their clothes ripped off, without shoes and covered in blood but they insisted: "We're fine, we're fine."

The pair were driving less than a mile from the crash site when they saw the black cloud of smoke and Pc Cerasale, 32, said to his colleague: "This is some house fire."

They thought the gasworks near the track was on fire but a member of the public told them there had been a huge crash. PC Cerasale said: "I can see a lot of flames and I can smell a very strong smell of petrol or diesel."

They stopped and saw people with horrific injuries walking towards them. They got through a hole in the fence and went over to start helping the injured and saw dead people were already lying on the tracks.

Calm among injured

He said: "We managed to get on to the track side and started to usher shaken and horribly injured casualties away.

"They were on the tracks, on the verge and everywhere else we were looking."

They had no medical equipment with them and could only comfort the injured knowing that the ambulance service were on their way.

"We went up to a couple of people that were laying out but were making noises and were shouting out to us."

The officers said they were surprised how calm everybody was and the only noises they could hear was from the flames engulfing the carriages.

Back at work

Passengers with light injuries were helping to bring the more seriously hurt from the carriages and across to the officers for them to help.

PC Cerasale and PC McKenzie, 25 then helped the ambulance service with the walking wounded, helped with first aid and took others away on stretchers.

They stayed at the scene for more than three hours. After they were relieved, they sat down with senior officers and talked things through with colleagues and were offered counselling.

The pair, both based at Notting Hill station, west London, went back work the following day. PC McKenzie said: "We were just doing our job."

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