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Last updated: 07/10/2019, 10:42 AM

Ladbroke Grove train crash victims remembered on 20 year anniversary

05/10/2019 11:00
Kensington and Chelsea

Family and friends came together to commemorate the 31 people who died in the Ladbroke Grove train crash 20 years ago today.

Hundreds of passengers were injured in the incident, which is also known as the Paddington rail crash.

This morning, to mark the 20th anniversary, a wreath laying took place at the Ladbroke Grove Memorial Garden in North Kensington, which was attended by hundreds of survivors, relatives of those who died and emergency services workers.

This was followed by a memorial service at St Helen’s Church, where candles were lit to represent those who died and the survivors.

At approximately 0806 on 5 October 1999, a Thames train left platform nine of Paddington station . At the same time, travelling towards Paddington at speeds of up to 100mph, was a First Great Western service.

The Ladbroke Grove train crash

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Two minutes later, the Thames train hurtled through the now infamous signal SN109, which had been showing red and despite both drivers applying their brakes, 33 seconds later the two trains crashed into one another.

London Fire Brigade received a call to the crash at 0810 and crews from North Kensington Fire Station arrived minutes later.

Crews initially faced difficulty gaining access to the site because of a delay in opening a security gate, which several firefighters scaled and began laying hose to quickly extinguish the fire.

Once they had secured the derailed carriages, firefighters began rescuing passengers from the wreckage but found many of the trapped passengers hampered by the dangers posed by the suspended roof of the train and the fraying of the overhead electric lines.

A total of 19 Brigade staff received Chief Officer’s Bravery Awards for their actions at the disaster.

Assistant Commissioner for Fire Stations, Andy Roe, laid a wreath on behalf of the Brigade at the service today.

He said: “As we mark 20 years since the devastating Ladbroke Grove rail crash, our thoughts remain with the loved ones of all those who died. 

“It was a tragic incident and I know it is never far from the minds of all my colleagues who were there.”

Ladbroke Grove rail disaster

Watch Manager Ben Jeffcott had been a firefighter on North Kensington’s Blue Watch for six years at the time of the crash and was part of the crew that was first on scene.

He recalls when the initial call came in it was to a fire trackside, so the crew had no idea they were to be faced with a head-on train crash. 

“As we were driving we could see a big plume of black smoke so we knew something was well alight but we didn’t know the severity of it,” he said. 

“It was only once I was over the fence and round the side that I could really see what had happened and suddenly I could see hundreds of people on the tracks and I was shouting at people to get off the tracks and watch out for other trains as we didn't know what the situation was.

“We were heavily involved in tackling the fires as they were near the passengers who were trapped and then we were extricating people.” 

WM Jeffcott, who was one of the staff who received a commendation, said it is an emotional incident to talk about and it was life-defining to be part of it.

Ladbroke Grove rail disaster

But he does also take away some more positive memories from it, particularly around witnessing the way members of the public were helping each other. 

He said: “Over the years that is what always astounds me – members of the public go above and beyond to help and on that day, people had managed to get out and were staying to help others.

“No one can train you for the emotional side of an incident like that.

“When you join you know something horrible will happen eventually, but it’s the people who were involved and their loved ones that take away the awfulness of it.

“It’s so important as a Brigade that we remember them at these events and show our respects.”

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