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Paddington rail crash remembered on 10th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 13:40 06 October 2009 | UPDATED: 16:28 07 September 2010

AN A&E consultant who headed the St Mary's Hospital response to the Paddington rail crash has spoken of what unfolded ahead of the 10th anniversary on Monday. Just after 8am on October 5, 1999, two trains collided at Ladbroke Grove, two mi

Sanchez Manning

AN A&E consultant who headed the St Mary's Hospital response to the Paddington rail crash has spoken of what unfolded ahead of the 10th anniversary on Monday.

Just after 8am on October 5, 1999, two trains collided at Ladbroke Grove, two miles from Paddington Station.

Thirty one people were killed and hundreds more injured. Ahead of the 10th anniversary of the disaster, Professor Robin Touquet has revealed how he and his staff coped with the scores of casualties flooding into St Mary's casualty department after the collision.

Prof Touquet said he was teaching in another part of the hospital when he received the call telling him the crash had happened.

"I just knew in my bones this was going to be something very unpleasant," he said.

"One of the first patients who came in had a wet sheet of cotton wool over their face with two holes in it for the eyes and a hole for the nose."

The 62-year-old consultant said the whole hospital was involved in dealing with the continuing stream of victims coming through the doors and it was his job to co-ordinate this operation.

"I stood at reception and the patients had been given a triage category by ambulance staff before they came in so we knew whether they were going to be put into the resuscitation room or a majors cubicle," he said. "There were also a number of walking wounded and they went into the fractures clinic. We didn't deal with families. At the time there was a cordon keeping the families and press out of the hospital."

More than 50 doctors and more than 100 nurses were enlisted to deal with the injuries which ranged from serious burns and broken bones to ruptured organs.

Prof Touquet, who has worked at St Mary's since 1986, said: "This was the largest incident since the IRA bandstand bombing in 1983 and was more extensive than the July 7 bombings."

Despite the traumatic injuries many patients arrived with, the hospital staff showed no signs of cracking under the stress, according to Prof Touquet.

"You do your job and don't get emotional about it - you do what's necessary," he said.

"The morale in the hospital improved because we showed that we could provide a very efficient response and showed how necessary it was to have a major hospital near a major rail station."

But Prof Touquet admits that still at the forefront of his thoughts is the suffering of both the survivors and the people who lost someone to the crash.

"The memory of that day will last with everyone for the rest of their lives but we feel that we gave it our best," he said.

"But we do feel for the families who lost relatives and loved ones and we also for the patients who will still be terribly scarred to this day by the burns on their faces and hands.

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