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2001: At least 10 die in Selby rail crash
Up to 13 people are feared dead and more than 70 have been injured after a high-speed rail collision caused by a car which had careered off the motorway.

Coaches and other wreckage were hurled hundreds of yards when the Newcastle to London passenger train smashed virtually head-on into a goods engine on the East Coast Main Line in North Yorkshire.

The disaster happened at 0612 GMT at Great Heck, near Selby, when a Land Rover, towing a trailer with a car on board, veered off the M62 onto the railway line.

The driver of the vehicle managed to escape and phoned the emergency services on his mobile phone.

Weather hampers rescue

He watched horrified as the passenger train smashed into his vehicle and came off the rails but continued moving straight into the path of the oncoming coal train.

The driver of the Land Rover has been named as Gary Hart, 36, a separated father of three.

Investigators are trying to establish what happened to make the Land Rover come off the road - whether the driver lost control or fell asleep at the wheel.

It is the fourth fatal crash on the railways in three-and-a-half years, following the accidents at Hatfield in October last year, Paddington in October 1999 and Southall in September 1997.

Three helicopters and a fleet of ambulances ferried the injured to seven different hospitals across Yorkshire.

Five patients with serious spinal and pelvic injuries were taken to hospitals in Leeds.

Snow, sleet and freezing cold weather conditions slowed the rescue efforts.

An accident and emergency consultant at Pontefract General Infirmary said the first casualties started arriving at 0728 GMT, three with life-threatening injuries.

He said they were all in shock: "They were not speaking about it. As you can imagine when you're travelling on a train and this sort of thing happens it is just unbelievable."

Local resident Laura Watkinson was woken by the sound of the accident. She went to her bedroom window to see the wreckage of a train, still smoking, in her back garden.

She said: "There had been a huge explosion, like an earthquake or a bomb, as I was lying in bed with my husband Charles. It shook the whole house, and even the toothbrushes fell off the handbasin shelf."

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Wreckage of two trains under road bridge
The passenger train hit the goods engine virtually head-on

Images from the aftermath of the Selby crash

In Context
Ten people were finally confirmed dead following the crash.

Gary Hart was convicted in December 2001 of falling asleep at the wheel and ten charges of causing death by dangerous driving. He denied all the charges.

He was sentenced to five years in jail but released after serving half his sentence in October 2004. He was also banned from driving for five years.

The court was told how Hart had fallen asleep at the wheel after spending most of the evening before the crash on the phone to a woman he had only recently made contact with over the internet. He was due to meet her in person for the first time later on the day of the crash.

Following the accident, road bridges crossing the East Coast Main Line were given upgraded motorway-style barriers.

But Hart's insurance company lost a High Court action to recover some of the compensation it had paid out on his behalf. Judges rejected the argument that the barrier on the bridge was not long enough to prevent a similar accident.

The court found the Highways Agency had not been negligent and that Hart was the main cause of the crash.

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