Train crash heroes praised

SHOCKED train crash casualties today heaped praise on the cool, clam and collected train conductor who helped others in the aftermath, despite his broken arm.

SHOCKED train crash casualties today heaped praise on the cool, clam and collected train conductor who helped others in the aftermath, despite his broken arm.

Hero Robert (Robbie) Williams proved he was 'the one' in the lyrics of his famous namesake, as he jumped into action despite suffering in pain himself.

He and the driver of yesterday's 9.05am Anglia Railways service from Lowestoft to Ipswich, tended to distressed passengers, after it collided with a lorry on a level crossing at Little Glemham near Saxmundham.

Eight passengers were treated at Ipswich Hospital yesterday - where two remain in a comfortable condition today - and another three, including the train driver and Mr Williams, were taken to James Paget Hospital at Gorleston.

The rest of the 56 passengers escaped unharmed, and the lorry driver suffered cuts and bruises.

Retired secretary Sheila Fletcher had been sitting near the back of the train, getting her money out to pay the £2.30 fare to Ipswich to go shopping when the accident happened.

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The 75-year-old grandmother from Kelsale, near Saxmundham, said: "I heard a grinding noise and something fell off the rack in front of me. I hit my nose on the seat in front.

"Everybody was a bit stunned to start with, and one girl wanted to get off, but we kept each other calm. The conductor was in pain, he was paralysed and couldn't move his arm. But he kept going up and down the train looking after everyone. He was a marvellous man.

"I heard the helicopter come, and the paramedics lifted people down a ladder to get off the train. One man was taken off on a stretcher."

Trainee nurse Steven Pruner from Lowestoft was on his way to college. He said: "I closed my eyes for just a minute and as I stretched out I felt a sudden impact and I jolted upright. My instinct was to grab something. My first fear was that we were going to roll over and I was afraid I could be really, really hurt.

"The conductor and train driver were very responsive and caring, despite their own injuries. Despite being obviously injured and in pain, they carried on until the end."

Student Matt Bray, 20, from Lowestoft was on his way to Suffolk College in Ipswich. He said: "I heard a crash. It felt like the train was lifting up on impact. It was very scary. People were thrown onto the floor. Everyone was so shocked but there wasn't any panic."

Marjorie Swann, 68, from Beccles was flung from her seat by the impact, and said: "It happened so quickly. The wheels seemed to come off the track immediately. I was not injured because I fell onto my bags."

Anglia Railways gave passengers mobile telephones to call relatives, in line with procedures during a training day which staff had on Friday to cope with just such a crash on a level crossing.

The passengers were taken to Ipswich Hospital, where a trauma team were alerted and jumped into action.

Director of A&E David Hodgkinson said six patients suffered minor injuries, and two were classed as serious with suspected internal injuries.

He said that staff waiting at A&E had updates about the incident before patients arrived.

He said yesterday: "In general terms, if a train travelling at 40-50mph stops suddenly, you still have the momentum of 40mph pushing your rib cage into the sharp edge of the table. That can cause certain injuries, and we need that information as early as possible because it often suggests what type of injuries should be expected.

"Most people had bumps and bruises and will be discharged, but the two patients with serious injuries will be admitted to hospital. They have undergone detailed assessment including ultrasound and CT scans to assess the internal injuries. They do not have broken bones, but do have suspected internal injuries.

"It wasn't felt necessary to activate our major incident plan, but we did call one extra doctor to start his shift early and activate our trauma team of senior staff from different specialities."

The crash happened shortly after 10am, close to Blaxhall Hall, home of farmer and former Ipswich Town Football Club chairman John Kerr, who said the lorry driver was a longstanding member of staff who had worked for the farm for more than 20 years.

He was heading away from the hall with crop insulation fleece, when the incident happened.

Mr Kerr today declined to name the driver, but said he was off work this morning.

He said: "I spoke to him last night and he was still very shocked."

Sergeant Bob Munn of British Transport Police said the level crossing had red flashing warning lights and a warning klaxon to alert drivers of an oncoming train.

Jonathan Denby of Anglia Railways stressed an investigation was still ongoing, but said: "All indications are that the driver was approaching the level crossing correctly. He would have been going at about 40 mph."