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Tuesday, 3 October, 2000, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Recovering from Paddington

Survivors of the Ladbroke Grove rail crash took part in a BBC documentary to mark the first anniversary of the tragedy. Here survivors Keith Stiles and Colin Field talk about their medical treatment and recovery.

Keith Stiles and Colin Field were both travelling in the infamous carriage H when the Paddington crash took place.

They received appalling burns from the fireball that destroyed the carriage, and killed many of the 31 victims.

Like many, they are still receiving medical care one year after the disaster. Because of their burns, they needed months of intensive therapy and specialist care.

I had no doubt I would survive. I don't know why, I just knew I would survive

Keith Stiles
For Keith and Colin, memories of their medical treatment are worse than memories of the crash itself.

Keith sustained 70% burns over his body. He contracted septicaemia and pneumonia and at one stage his wife began to arrange the funeral.

But Keith pulled through. "I had no doubt I would survive. I don't know why, I just knew I would survive," he said.

Keith has undergone 40 skin grafts, where skin is removed from one part of the body to cover another. He endured months of pain and agony.

On one occasion, he broke down unable to take it anymore.

"I could see the flesh through the arms. If you imagine the pain that goes with that, it's extremely painful when they change the bandages.

"I remember on one particular occasion when I just broke down. I couldn't take the pain anymore."

Having the dressings removed was as near as I could imagine to being skinned alive

Colin Field

He now has to wear a full body suit to help his burns to heal. The pain from his injuries is still terrible and he has to take painkillers most of the time. He has nightmares and flashbacks every day.

Colin sustained similar injuries. He had burns over most of his body and doctors had told his family that he was unlikely to survive.

He did. But at a cost. Because of his burns, Colin needed to have his dressings changed every other day. He likens the removal of the bandages to being skinned alive.

"Memories of the treatment are worse than memories of the accident itself.

"Having the dressings removed was as near as I could imagine to being skinned alive because the actual dressings just stuck to what was effectively raw flesh."

The two met when they spent months on the same intensive care ward. That was when they realised they had both worked for London Underground before the crash - though neither had met before.

Recovery process

Together they have forged a friendship which has helped them both through the initial stages of the recovery process.

The friendship grew as the two men went to hospital and then to the gym together.

Both have said that they will never be able to travel on a train again.

Colin, who used to work as a safety advisor for LU had experienced a train fire before, so he never imagined the same thing would happen to him again.

It was like a flame-thrower coming straight for me

Keith Stiles
"I guess the first thing that went through my mind was 'oh no, not again' because I'd been involved in a train incident before. I was on the train at Maidenhead that caught fire and it just went straight through my mind."

He remembers parts of the crash in great detail.

"The floor of the carriage started to split and I can remember quite distinctly seeing the cables arcing, the cables had obviously parted.

"The train was still moving as far as I was concerned, and my last recollection then really was just a fireball coming up through the floor of the train, and I then don't actually remember anything.

Keith remembers trying to stay calm while the crash was happening.

"When it came to rest, my first thought was 'I'm still alive' and that's when the fire started."

He was trapped under a table when he saw the fireball, caused by exploding fuel.

"It was like a flame-thrower coming straight for me and I couldn't move."

"The pain wasn't that great where it hit in a major areas. I now know that to be because the burns were so great the nerve endings were damaged."

I was one of the lucky ones, I got out

Keith Stiles
Both Keith and Colin have bad days but they are looking to the future with optimism, despite their injuries.

"I don't want to come across as somebody whose whinging and moaning about the injuries that I've been through. I always try to look on the positive side," says Keith.

"I want to say 'well, I was in a disaster but I recovered.'"

"I was one of the lucky ones, I got out."

Disaster at Paddington, a BBC documentary, will be broadcast on 3 October 2000 on BBC ONE at 2250-2340.

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