Horror crash killed 31 people when ‘wrong signal’ saw trains collide at 130mph

The Ladbroke Grove rail disaster, also known as the Paddington rail crash, remains one of the most devastating rail disasters in UK history.

Two passenger trains travelling at speeds of up to 100mph collided on this day 22 years ago – 5 October 1999 – and tragically claimed the lives of 31 people.

The horrific collision injured 258 passengers, who became trapped in the derailed and destroyed carriages, many of which had gone up in flames due to a "huge fireball".

A Thames train left platform nine of Paddington station with 147 people on board at approximately 08:06am.

The departing train ran through the now infamous signal SN109 two minutes later, which had been showing red.

At the same time, a First Great Western train carrying 421 passengers was travelling towards Paddington at full speed.

31-year-old Michael Hodder had been a qualified driver for just two weeks when he got in the driving seat of the morning commuter train from Paddington on October 5, 1999.

Maybe blinded by the bright sunshine, he ran the red signal and straight into the path of the high speed Great Western train.

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Despite both drivers slamming their brakes for 33 seconds, the two trains collided at a combined speed of 130 miles an hour.

The catastrophic collision caused a fireball to fly through coach H which was filled with terrified passengers.

Mrs Pam Warren, who was sitting at the rear of the coach, said that she "tried to curl up" when she saw the fireball hurtling towards her.

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"I don't recall screaming but I might have done because I managed to burn the inside of my mouth and throat… I remember the fire hitting me," she said in the inquiry report.

Emergency calls were made at 08:10am and floods of firefighters turned up at the scene minutes later.

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They scrambled to rescue passengers trapped in the carriages but discovered that many were trapped under live electrical lines and precarious suspended roofs.

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The brave firefighters reportedly witnessed horrifically burnt bodies lying on the tracks as the smell of burnt flesh and diesel fumes took grip of the air, The Sun reported.

The sound of ringing phones amongst the wreckage has stuck in the mind of Crew Manager David Fitzgerald who attended the scene.

The firefighter, who had only been in the job four years before witnessing the tragedy, said that he heard ringing mobile phones for the entirety of the day.

"I looked at one and it had 104 missed calls," he said.

The emergency services who managed to save hundreds of people on that dire morning were described by Lord Cullen as displaying "great courage and endurance".

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