'I thought I was going to die. I pity the people behind us'

The survivors
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Bruised, battered and many spattered with blood, the passengers of the Hatfield crash yesterday told how they heard a massive bang and were then thrown from their seats as the InterCity express train derailed.

Bruised, battered and many spattered with blood, the passengers of the Hatfield crash yesterday told how they heard a massive bang and were then thrown from their seats as the InterCity express train derailed.

While four passengers were killed and one woman suffered a fractured leg, most of the 100-plus passengers escaped with remarkably slight injuries. Unlike last year's crash near Paddington, where so many survivors suffered debilitating burns and injuries, this may be remembered as an accident in which the majority had a miraculous escape.

When news of the crash broke, hospitals across the area were put on stand-by, anticipating many more potential victims with serious injuries. Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Welwyn Garden City closed its accident and emergency department to prepare for dozens of seriously injured people.

But in the end 26 people - 14 women and 12 men - were taken to Queen Elizabeth II. A hospital spokeswoman said the most seriously injured was a woman with a fractured leg while the others were being treated for cuts and bruises. Five others - also with minor injuries - were taken to Lister Hospital in Stevenage.

The bulk of the so-called "walking wounded" were taken to a nearby conference centre in Hatfield owned by the University of Hertfordshire. The centre had been hosting a doctors conference and as the passengers arrived in ambulances and specially chartered busses, the doctors helped those who needed attention.

Tea, coffee and counselling was offered to those who were not hurt but had suffered shock.

Greg Johnson, 49, an insurance manager who works in India, had been travelling to visit his mother in Boston, Lincolnshire, after the death of his father on Monday evening.

"I was being pretty boring and had just got my lap-top out," said Mr Johnson, who had been in the carriage next to the buffet car. "First there was this bang and then there was a lot of shuddering and shaking. It was like there was this heavy turbulence. We were getting bounced about quite a bit. You realised you were off the rails. Our carriage was pretty well behaved. There was some screaming but no one lost their heads all together. There were some fumes but it was all over as quickly as it began."

Suzanne Bullock, 22, a professional dancer from Wickford, Essex, said: "There was a big bang and my coffee got thrown out of my hand. There was a lot of shouting.

"I knew something had happened. I knew something was going on. It was more a question of trying to keep yourself up than anything else."

Brian Emsley, a University of Hertfordshire spokesman, said that though he had seen a number of people with blood-stained shirts, the majority were suffering from shock. At the centre he said university staff had been helping medics. Many people had been phoning relatives and filling in their details for police.

"Most people are in good spirits - there is a bit of the Blitz spirit," said Mr Emsley. "You don't see people looking too shocked. We have brought our own nursing staff here to help."

Stephen Morgan was one of the first of the walking wounded to speak to reporters after the accident.

"Mayhem. The only thing I could say is mayhem ... there were ladies crying and everything," he said, when asked to explain the scenes.

"I just heard a big bang and then just everything went - the train went over on its side. A couple of carriages went over, I grabbed the nearest thing I could grab to get myself a little bit of comfort, and luckily enough I came through all right.

"The door was on its side so we managed to get that open to get some air in there in case there was any fire. I'm OK, I'm lucky. Obviously I feel very sorry for the people who died. It could have been any of us.

"We saw a few people down near the bar area, near the buffet, and we couldn't get in to them because it was mangled up, so I think that's probably where it happened, where people died."

Peter Cole, a heavy goods vehicle driver from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, was on the train with his wife, Catherine. "We were on the last carriage before the buffet car. Our carriage tipped over," said Mr Cole, who like his wife, is in his sixties.

"It was just a shock, the whole thing. I just thought I was going to die. It was really horrible. I just pity the poor people behind us. It was them who really suffered."

Dianne Hudson, 47, a local government officer with Leeds City Council, was travelling home. She said there was nothing to suggest yesterday's trip was going to be anything other than a normal journey.

"I was chatting to some bloke who was sitting near by, " she said. "I was literally flung out of my seat and ended up under a table.

"I just thought, 'My God it's a bomb.' The carriage I was in had pretty much overturned. I didn't hear any screaming. I just heard the noise of the crash.

"It was the most horrendous noise I have ever heard. Just screeching and banging. It was terrible."