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Ladbroke Grove Crash - Personal Account

by Alan Macro, Theale, Berkshire, UK


I was one of the "lucky" many who escaped the crash without a scratch. A few of my experiences/thoughts.

I got on coach C (I think) at Reading: I remember passing Ealing Broadway and Acton on the HST, reading my newspaper when I was aware of screaming, then the the train started juddering and slowing. I was not aware of any emergency braking. Looking back I seem to be aware of a "woomph" type noise and the feeling that the train was going though something insubstantial. I thought the train had derailed.

The train seemed to continue for an age until slowly passing past burning debris. This was almost surreal. We passed a long piece of metal which was at an angle to the vertical. I thought it was an electrification mast that we had hit. Turned out to be part of the Thames Turbo.

After the train stopped it seemed to take an age to be able to get off. Several passengers were emotionally distressed. There was burning debris outside and I was worried that the fire would spread to the coach or that smoke would start coming in. Once out of and clear of the train I looked at my watch. It was 08:20. The BBC said that the crash happened at 08:11 so I reckon it took seven or eight minutes to get out.

Once I reached the door I asked whethert the door in the adjacent coach was open. It wasn't and at that momemnt someone kicked it. I suggested that they check with railway? people outside the train (in case the door hit someone) and there was a shout from outside to break the glass panel above the door. The man did this (by hand) and released the door. Everybody had obviously assumed that the doors had been unlocked and were jammed by the crash.

After getting down from the coach, we made our way over the adjacent tracks (and power cables) to the North Star Depot security fence. It was at this point that I saw two badly burned people and wondered where they had come from. Then I realised that we were amongst the shattered remains of a Thames Turbo coach. The remains reminded me of pieces of fuselage after a plane crash. We could only see about one coach length in the Paddington direction because of the plume of smoke rising. This did not stop someone (railway staff?) directing us in this direction (even after I suggested that this might not be the best cause of action). We soon stopped and were eventually evacuated in the opposite direction.

I was shocked (and still am) at the damage (understatement) to the Thames Turbo, these are the trains I normally travel on (missed my usual train due to having to de-ice the car). Didn't see the damage to the HST due to the smoke. This looked very bad on the television.

The police and fire brigade seemed to turn up fairly quickly but we didn't see many ambulance men.

We made our way up the embankment to the Sainsbury's store. We were offered tea and sympathy by the staff (and first aid for those who needed it), some of whome were traumatised themselves. One had been in the petrol sation when a fireball erupted (her words) and someone had told her to get away from the petrol Another told me she had seen things she had never wanted to see.

Police (and one passenger who "had no adreneline") took our names and addresses. No other statements.

Minor quibbles:
We uninjured were left to find our own way from a part of London few of us were familar with (this will lead to another post another time). People who acted as though they were rail staff did not wear any obvious uniform or identification.

Major concerns:
Doors not unlocked by master emergeny mechanism or by senior conductor (who - I assume it was he - was busy giving information and instructions to turn off power over the radio - also transmitted over the PA.)

Instructions on how to operate emergency door release not obvious (as stated after Maidenhead HST fire - nothing appears to have changed)

There appeared to be no implements to break windows or the door release cover.

There are no aids to getting down from the train, could cause difficulties in confined spaces or on embankments. I saw just one ladder - used at the guard's door on coach A.

We were asked (by rail? staff outside) before getting off train if there were any fire extinguishers - we couldn't see any. There was another request later but all had been used.

Every shout for a doctor seemed to be answere quickly (at least one was a passenger).
The crash was near two rail depots - Old Oak Common and North Star. It was close to major roads (Ladbroke Grove and Harrow Road) and hospitals (St Mary's, Hammersmith, Ealing General). Things could have been a lot worse at a more remote location.


Editor's note:

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