Paddington Train Disaster: The Survivors

'I tried to free a passenger. Then I left. Survival instincts took over'
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The Independent Online

IT SEEMS scarcely credible that some passengers scrambled to safety from carriage H. Hotter than a crematorium furnace, all that remains of those who could not clamber free are their ashes.

IT SEEMS scarcely credible that some passengers scrambled to safety from carriage H. Hotter than a crematorium furnace, all that remains of those who could not clamber free are their ashes.

But about half a dozen did get out. Among those was Chris Goodall, the managing director of Demon, an Internet service provider. But escape has not rested easy with the man who admitted he left behind others.

He unsuccessfully tried to free another passenger trapped beneath a table. "I'm afraid my survival instincts took over - I'm not proud of this - and I left the carriage," he said.

Mr Goodall joined the express train at Didcot, Oxfordshire, and walked into the first- class carriage which was carrying, he guessed, about 50 people, as it neared Paddington. On impact, the lights went out "immediately" and the carriage seemed to catch fire even before it stopped, he said.

"It was completely dark, it was getting hot, although some of the windows had opened and there was air coming in. The carriage was already full of smoke before I was able to do anything," he said.

He searched through the smoke for an exit from the carriage. "I turned my head slightly to the right and I realised the whole front of the carriage had been ripped off and it was possible to get over the debris out of the front of the carriage. I moved in that direction immediately and got out probably within 15 seconds of the impact."

He described the scene as "completely chaotic. The seats an the tables were all over the place, they were piled high on the floor," he added.

"It was as though one was walking on wooden and metal debris to get anywhere." At that point, both sides of the carriage were ablaze, but it was "not a bad fire at that time".

Asked how many others he saw escape, he said: "From the front of the carriage, as opposed to any other holes that may have been generated, I think it was five. It may have been four, I think it was five, in total."

Mr Goodall said he was "full of sympathy" for the families of the dead. "I know it was 20 minutes between my wife hearing of the accident and hearing my voice at the end of a mobile phone," he said.

Another of the injured passengers who escaped from the first-class carriage said anger was his prevailing emotion. Steve Jones, 38, a management consultant from Cheltenham, needed treatment for burns to hands, arms and face. He left St Mary's Hospital last night. He said he was probably the last to flee Carriage H.

"It is a case of money as far as I can see," he said. "I feel very worked up now. I feel extremely lucky, but the people that died need not have died.

"The technology is there. I should be able to get on a train in Cheltenham and get off in London safely."

Mr Jones said he had been preparing to leave the train when the crash happened. "There was a bang like an explosion and a cloud of black smoke almost immediately, and flames. We were desperately trying to break windows."

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