UK

Potters Bar driver 'said he had lost everything'

Potters Bar
Image caption The train was travelling at 98 mph when it derailed

The driver of a train said, "I have lost everything... we are off the rails," moments before it crashed, an inquest has heard.

Signal inspector Roger Badger told the inquest into the 2002 Potters Bar crash that Gordon Gibson made the remark shortly before the train derailed.

One passenger, Wing Cdr Martin Rose, said it was like "being inside a tumble drier" and said he feared he would die.

Seven people were killed in the crash near Potters Bar station, Herts.

Mr Badger said he had been on the 1245 train - which was travelling from London King's Cross to King's Lynn, Norfolk - on 10 May 2002 as a "familiarisation" exercise.

He said he had been travelling in the cab alongside Mr Gibson and all had appeared normal until the train approached Potters Bar station.

"The train jolted. It then paused for a second or so. Then there was another violent jolt.

"[The driver] said: 'I have lost everything...' He said: 'We are off the rails."'

Mr Badger said the train then automatically went into "full emergency brake application", and once it had come to a halt, he walked up the line to warn oncoming trains.

Judge Michael Findlay Baker QC, sitting as a deputy coroner, has told jurors the crash was caused by a faulty set of points south of Potters Bar station and driver Mr Gibson could not be blamed.

In a statement read by a lawyer, Mr Gibson told the inquest: "I felt a dragging sensation. The third and fourth carriages came off the rails.

"The fourth became detached and I saw it across the platform. I looked out of the window and saw just smoke."

Alan Williams, who was driving a London-bound train, described seeing sparks and dust coming from the crash train.

He said that as he tried to raise the alarm with signalmen: "I saw the rear carriage tumbling towards me across both the island platforms.

"It was coming at me very fast. My immediate thought was that it was going to hit me. I [did] the emergency brake stop.

"It sort of hit the roof of the building, the canopy, and... came to a jolting stop."

The inquest, in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, has been hearing from witnesses to the crash and from some of those who were on board.

Wing Cdr Rose described exchanging words in the first class section of the fourth carriage with an elderly couple - later identified as victim Austen Kark and his author wife Nina Bawden - before going on to read his newspaper.

'Unsurvivable accident'

He said there was then "a violent lateral judder" before his carriage tilted and rolled.

"It rapidly became how I would imagine it is being inside a tumble drier," he said. "I floated up out of my seat.

"I blindly reached out and managed to get hold of a rail on the luggage rack."

Wing Cdr Rose said he felt at the time he was in "an unsurvivable accident" and had lost consciousness but later woke up to find himself wedged in a gangway.

Robert Young, who was heading to Cambridge for a job interview, described hearing a "loud bang".

"I felt a strong gust of wind and grit," he said, describing how he then fell unconscious when the carriage began "jolting violently".

When he woke up, his first thought was "thank goodness I'm alive", he told the court.

Dr Beatrice Boctor, who had been travelling to Cambridge to meet her daughter, broke her back in the crash.

She described being "thrown to the floor" before luggage fell on top of her.

"It was chaos. It was mayhem," she said.

Alan Ticehurst, whose office overlooked the crash scene, said he "rushed to the window" after hearing a "bang".

"I could see a carriage going across both platforms, just straddling the tracks. There was dust and debris. There were people lying around."

Report 'forgotten'

The inquest has previously heard that two passengers tried to raise concerns about the track the night before the crash.

Checks had been carried out on the approach to the station hours before the crash - but on the wrong line, it heard.

One report had been "forgotten", another had been misinterpreted and on the third occasion a train manager had not responded to a passenger's concerns, Judge Michael Findlay Baker QC told jurors at the inquest in Letchworth.

The West Anglia Great Northern train careered off the track at 98mph, flipping its rear carriage into the air.

It crashed into a bridge and slid along the platform before coming to rest under the platform canopy. Six passengers in the rear carriage and a passer-by were killed.

The inquest will examine the deaths of Austen Kark, Emma Knights, Jonael Schickler, Alexander Ogunwusi, Chia Hsin Lin, Chia Chin Wu and Agnes Quinlivan.

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