Happy mood turned to terror as the lights went out on the 5.35

Jon Stace was looking forward to a night celebrating his friend's birthday and a Sunday at home with his family.

Jon Stace was looking forward to a night celebrating his friend's birthday and a Sunday at home with his family.

The 21-year-old deliberately missed an earlier connection so he could join three friends on the way to the party near Newbury but minutes after leaving Reading station their cheerful mood turned to terror as the train left the tracks at more than 100 miles per hour and passengers were plunged into darkness.

"We had only just got on to the train, we each had a drink and were just opening them. My friend was sitting across from me in the window seat and his drink spilt on to him. There was a judder and then the lights [went] out. The next thing we knew the train was on its side and rolling over ... I could feel bodies going on top of me and being thrown different places.

"I felt my arm go through the window because the glass wasn't there and felt my head go through as well. I managed to pull my head back in but my arm got dragged along. It was terrifying. I literally thought that was the end and I was going to die."

Mr Stace, a graphic design student at the London College of Communications, suffered severe lacerations to his arm and cuts to his back and hand. His friends were discharged with minor injuries.

"When it happened it was pitch black.Fortunately some people found some glow sticks and some of them used their mobile phones as torches.''

Mr Stace and his friends went back into the mangled carriage twice to help survivors until emergency services arrived. "People were screaming when [it] first happened but fortunately most people did quite a good job of calming down.''

Ian Horler, 37, was waiting at home in Newbury for his girlfriend Sharmin Bacchus, also 37, to arrive back from London when he heard there had been a train crash. Unable to contact her, he spent hours frantically searching makeshift treatment centres before driving to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading where he was told 90 minutes later that she was in resuscitation.

Ms Bacchus, who was apprehensive about travelling by train and had not been on one for seven years, suffered a broken pelvis, cracked ribs, cuts and bruises. She was trapped inside the carriage and had to be released by emergency services.

Mr Horler said: "I was told she was in the resuscitation unit. My thoughts were she wasn't going to make it and I started to phone her family. It was very traumatic."

Eventually a nurse told Mr Horler that his girlfriend was in a "stable" condition. "How she got out without any head or spinal injuries is amazing," he said. "It looks as if she's gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson."

Brian Knapman, 64, and his wife Maggie, 56, were travelling home to Torquay in the first-class carriage at the front of the train after celebrating his brother's 60th birthday in London.

"All of a sudden we heard a crash and the carriage went on to its side," he said as he was discharged from hospital.

"My arm was being scraped along the tracks and my clothes were ripped and then the train slid to a halt.

"I immediately checked to see how my wife was, but she was coughing and trying to catch her breath. She was the most seriously injured person in the carriage, with cuts all over her chest and face, a broken hand and a suspected broken jaw,"

Paramedics clambered into the stricken carriage and started to treat the injured. They could not fit a stretcher into the confined space, so they used a table that had been torn from the floor as a makeshift stretcher to carry Maggie Knapman from the wreckage. She was taken to Royal Berkshire Hospital where her condition was yesterday described as "serious but stable".

In total, 61 injured were taken to Royal Berkshire Hospital, about five miles from the crash scene. By midday yesterday 47 had been discharged. Four were in a serious but stable condition. One man, who had been in intensive care with life threatening multiple injuries, died last night.

Ann Sheen, Chief Executive of the hospital Trust said staff had undergone a major incident training exercise just two weeks ago. More than 20 extra staff were called in to help and three operating theatres freed up to treat the injured. She said staff had been traumatised by what they had seen and that counselling would be offered.

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