Rail crash kills one

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The Independent Online
AT LEAST a dozen people narrowly escaped death when a Royal Mail train careered up an embankment and stopped just inches from their homes, after a high-speed collision with a freight train. One man was killed and 21 injured in the accident, at Rickerscote, south of Stafford, late on Friday night.

The Transrail freight train was travelling from Scotland to London with a cargo of liquid carbon dioxide when it was derailed near Stafford station. The Coventry-Glasgow mail train, going in the other direction, hit it head-on, leading to the death of a postal worker, who has yet to be named.

Five of the mail train's carriages and its locomotive were thrown across the track. The locomotive rose up an embankment, stopping just feet from the wall of a nearby house.

"I heard a small sort of thump but thought that was normal," said Graham Jarvis, who lives three houses away from the crash. "Then I heard an almighty crash like an explosion. I went downstairs but couldn't see anything - there was a very thick fog.

Geoffrey Wookey, who also lives nearby, said: "A tremendous cloud of what I was told was carbon dioxide gas spread across the area. The police came and told us to keep our doors and windows closed, but it dispersed in the wind after about 10 minutes."

Fifty houses were later evacuated during an operation to remove the carbon dioxide left in tankers on the freight train.

Investigators were yesterday picking through the tangled wreckage, trying to discover why the freight train left its tracks and collided with the mail train. Railtrack said that its initial assessment ruled out track or signal failures or vandalism.