Driver killed after ploughing through a closing level crossing and smashing into a high-speed train

March 21, 2013 | by | 1 Comment

A man died today  after a car apparently drove through a closing level crossing barrier and was struck by a high-speed train.

The crash happened at around 6.26am on the Stanmoor Road crossing near Athelney between Taunton and Castle Cary, Somerset.

Train staff including the driver say the half barrier was already closing when the red vehicle came onto the tracks.

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Emergency services at the scene near the Athelney level crossing where a train hit a car this morning

Emergency services at the scene near the Athelney level crossing where a train hit a car this morning

The wreckage of the car is seen crushed under the train

The wreckage of the car is seen crushed under the train

The car became trapped under the 05.46 service from Exeter to London Paddington and was shunted half-a-mile down the track.

None of the 37 passengers and eight members of staff on board were injured but the two drivers in the cab are said to be “very distressed”. One person inside the car, believed to be the male driver, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Stuart Lambert, a passenger on the train, was on his way to London for a training course when the tragedy happened.

The teacher, 37, from Taunton, said: “I was sitting at the back of the train, just dozing, when I felt a shudder and the brakes slam on.

“The train came to a controlled stop some distance later, where the announcer told us that someone had jumped the level crossing.

“We were told to move to the front of the train, where they kept us calm and refreshed, and kept everyone well informed.”

The eight-carriage train returned to Taunton at around noon, almost six hours after the fatal collision.

Stuart added: “A lot of people were shaken up, understandably, but the staff were absolutely brilliant and kept everyone calm and comfortable.”

The train involved in the level crossing smash returned to Taunton station – where the passengers were finally allowed to disembark.

A police cordon near to the level crossing in Taunton, Somerset, where a man was killed after a car was struck by a high-speed train at a level crossing

A private ambulance removes the body from the scene of a car and train crash this morning

A private ambulance removes the body from the scene of a car and train crash this morning

Fire, police and ambulance crews were already at the station to help the badly shaken-up passengers and train crew.

The majority of the passengers were directed on to another service to Cardiff, which was calling at Bristol.

Network Rail is treating the incident as “non suspicious”, with the focus on the accident on the actions of the driver and not the workings of the crossing.

A spokesman for British Transport Police confirmed: “Shortly before 6.30am this morning,  BTP was called to reports that a car had been struck by a train at Athelney automatic half-barrier level crossing, Taunton, Somerset.

“The train involved was the 0546hrs Exeter to London Paddington service.

“The train has not been derailed and there are no reports of any injuries to anyone on board.

“The car is trapped under the front of the train and services are currently stopped in the area.

“There was one person in the car who has been pronounced dead at the scene.

“An investigation is underway to establish the full circumstances leading up to the incident.”

A spokesman for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said: “The train has not been derailed and there are no reports of any injuries to anyone on board.

“The car is trapped under the front of the train and services are currently stopped in the area.

“There was one male person in the car who has been pronounced dead at the scene.

“An investigation is underway to establish the full circumstances leading up to the incident.”

Train services were diverted via Bristol and Stanmoor Road is Athelney is closed in both directions at the Cuts Road junction.

A limited bus replacement service was put in place between Taunton and Westbury in both directions, calling at Castle Cary.

The barrier of the crossing was lowered at the time of the crash and the driver is believed to have tried to weave around them in order to cross.

Local resident Aaron Mead, who lives about 100 yards from the crossing, said: “We heard an almighty bang in the early hours of this morning. A couple of pictures on the bedside table fell over.

“I didn’t think anything of it to be honest, and then before we knew it we had endless amounts of sirens, police cards, fire engines and ambulances bombing up and down the road.

“It made me jump out of bed quite quickly.

“It’s quite a tight road but there are four or five fire engines, eight or nine police cars and five or six ambulances from from what we can see on this side of the bridge.”

James Hector, owner of Willowbank Services less than a mile from the scene, said the barriers close very quickly.

“It’s a very fast crossing,” he said. “Once the barriers go down the train is there within 30 seconds.

“They are half-road barriers so it would be possible to drive around them, but you would have no chance if you did.

“These roads are very dangerous at the moment. Just as during the floods, people don’t taking the conditions into account on these narrow lanes.”

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “The 1A73 05.46am Exeter St Davids to Paddington service has struck a red car on the Athelney Level Crossing Automatic Half Barrier.

“The incident was reported at 06.26am. One fatality within the car has been confirmed. The train has not derailed, and no passengers or crew were injured.

“The car is badly damaged, and is under the leading power car.

“The train driver and First Great Western staff have given a statement to British Transport Police that the barriers were lowered and the car was seen to drive onto the crossing.

“BTP report the crime scene has been deemed non-suspicious.

“Fire Brigade have begun to cut and remove the vehicle from underneath the front power car. Road transport has been arranged for passengers at Athelney.

“The route is currently blocked and trains are being diverted via Bristol.”

Local James Hector owns Willowbank Services less than a mile from the scene of the tragedy.

He said: “There is a police helicopter circling and there are lots of emergency services vehicles at the scene.

“It’s a very fast crossing – once the barriers go down the train is there within 30 seconds.

“They are half-road barriers so it would be possible to drive around them, but you would have no chance if you did.

“These roads are very dangerous at the moment. Just as during the floods, people don’t taking the conditions into account on these narrow lanes.”

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Comments (1)

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  1. matty says:

    Did you no when those barriers close that train if max speed would take 30 seconds to get to that crossing when it had crossed the sensor to set them of that man had no chance if that train was going 100 mph

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