and TIM REID
One man was killed and seven others injured as they fled a blazing when an InterCity train near Maidenhead in Berkshire last night.
The dead man was travelling on the 18.30pm Paddington to Swansea train when it burst into flames after springing a fuel leak. He jumped from the train into the path of the 17.15pm Bristol to Paddington high-speed train.
Police said the dead man was in his thirties and came from the Swindon area. All the casualties were believed to have been in the first class section of the train. Dozens of passengers were treated for the effects of smoke inhalation.
The front coaches of the Swansea-bound train burst into flames after its diesel tank fell off and struck the tracks, spilling fuel over a large area.
A spokesman for the Royal Berkshire fire brigade service said: "The driver heard a bang and the diesel tank appears to have fallen off. He then stopped the train."
A Railtrack official, who was travelling on a following train, said: "One of the things we have to look at for the cause of this accident has to be vandalism. Something must have caused the fuel tank to rupture."
However, Superintendent Peter Edwards, a police spokesman, said there was no evidence to support claims made by some that the train hit an object on the line.
Reg Haynes, a passenger on the train, said there was chaos when flames started shooting up the inside of the windows. "There was a noise just like going over thousands of stones. It seemed to go on for about 20 seconds. You could not see a thing. There were flames all over the train ... The windows were cracking. It was black within seconds. I was standing in the buffet car because the train was packed as usual."
Paul Lambert, who lives opposite the bridge where the train came to a halt 500 yards from Maidenhead station, said he could see panic-stricken passengers kicking at the smoke-covered windows. "People were bashing the windows with their feet to get out. You could see people hitting the windows. They were lying on the tables. There was panic."
An extra safety lock has been fitted on the doors of InterCity trains because more than 200 people have died falling out of them.
Thousands of passengers had their journeys disrupted as the line was closed for several hours in both directions. Last night British Transport police were combing the track searching for any object which may have caused the incident and for any other bodies.
In June last year, two people were killed when a train hit a concrete block in Greenock, near Glasgow, the first deaths as a result of vandalism on Britain's railways.
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