Clapham disaster survivor haunted by crash memories 25 years on

Andover Advertiser: The Clapham rail disaster of December 1988. The Clapham rail disaster of December 1988.

TWENTY five years on from the Clapham Junction rail disaster, a survivor is still remembering fresh details from that harrowing day.

Richard Court was travelling on 7.36am express train from Basingstoke when it smashed into a stopping service bound for London Waterloo. A third train then careered into the wreckage from the first crash.

In all, 35 people died in the crash on December 12, 1988, including Basingstoke residents Arthur Creech, 48, a train driver from Winklebury, and 30-year-old newly-wed Paul Hadfield, from Chineham.

It was only recently that Mr Court, of Coniston Road, Kempshott, realised he could remember seeing the third train involved in the accident.

The 60-year-old told The Gazette: “I was still in the carriage. I remember seeing the train plough into the debris and two people who had tried to get out of our train. I was watching and it was terrifying.

“The mind works in a way that allows you to assimilate things, even if it is much later.”

Last Thursday, survivors attended a small memorial service at the crash memorial site to mark the 25th anniversary of the crash.

The service was conducted by The Reverend Canon Hilary Jackson, head of chaplaincy at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south London – the hospital where many of the injured were taken. While Mr Court did not attend, he said it was important to mark the milestone anniversary.

He said: “I always think we should aspire to have one of the safest railways in the world. That sort of loss of life must never be forgotten. Thirty-five people died and 500 were hurt – we must never forget that.”

The engineer was standing up to get his bag when his train hit the stopping service in front. The impact sent him flying 15 feet against the carriage wall.

When he left the carriage, he asked to help, but firefighters sent him away from the scene. He then joined other commuters queuing at a shop, and called his wife Anne.

Mr Court still suffers back pain from the whiplash injury he sustained. He said he is reminded about the Clapham tragedy every time he hears a blackbird sing – the sound he heard immediately after the crash.

Speaking on the day of the 25th anniversary, Rail Minister Baroness Kramer said: “Important lessons have been learned since then, and Britain today has one of the safest rail networks in the world.

“However, we must never become complacent. We must always make sure that safety remains the number one priority on our railways.”

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