Paddington train flipped through air, says witness

Inquest opens on deaths of 31 in last year's accident and hears evidence from those who witnessed crash and a victim's relative
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The Independent Online

A senior fire officer who was among the first at the scene of the Paddington rail crash yesterday told the inquest into the deaths of the victims how he had found a scene which "took his breath away".

A senior fire officer who was among the first at the scene of the Paddington rail crash yesterday told the inquest into the deaths of the victims how he had found a scene which "took his breath away".

Station officer Richard Hodson, who was based at Ladbroke Grove fire station, said that on his way to the accident he and his colleagues could see huge clouds of smoke indicating it was a major incident. But when he arrived, he said in a statement to the coroner, he "was confronted by a situation, the enormity of which took my breath away".

He added: "There were a lot of passengers evacuating the train. There were people between the carriages and I was aware of some casualties on the ground around the train - obviously a lot of dazed and confused people."

Another witness, PC Gavin Cerasale - also among those first to arrive - said someone who had witnessed the crash told him he had seen a train "flip in the air". He added: "I jumped out of the [police] vehicle and could see the flames and smoke through the security gates in front of me."

Both men were giving evidence at an inquest into the deaths of 31 people killed when a First Great Western InterCity train collided with a Thames Trains turbo service two miles out of Paddington Station, west London, last October. Two fires broke out following the collision.

The London inquest is just one a series of inquiries set up following what was one of Britain's worst rail accidents. A public inquiry, headed by Lord Cullen is due to start hearing evidence later this year, while three separate safety reports are published today.

Yesterday, the Westminster coroner, Dr Paul Knapman, said that while the inquest was designed to find out the circumstances of the deaths, it would not examine the details behind the crash. Those - and matters such as whether the emergency service personnel were delayed by locked security gates which they had to climb over when they reached the scene - would be left to Lord Cullen's inquiry. Because of this, the inquest is likely to be adjourned before verdicts are returned.

But Dr Knapman said it was the job of the inquest jury to consider the pathology reports carried out on the victims, to hear where they had been seated before the crash and where they bodies were discovered afterwards. "We shall hear that evidence separately 31 times because each person was an individual," he said.

Relatives of the victims yesterday were invited to examine a scale model of the accident scene which had been placed in at the front of the court.

The inquest continues.

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