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Investigators search for cause in debris of London train crash

September 20, 1997

LONDON (AP) _ Huge cranes maneuvered into position Saturday at Southall station in west London to shift the crushed and mangled cars of a train wreck that killed six people and injured at least 150.

Police teams searched through piles of twisted metal for clues about why a mainline passenger train from western Britain collided with a freight train Friday afternoon.

The site was declared a crime scene, so workers had to wait until officers completed a minute daylight search before the cranes could be used to move the wreckage and free the rail line for weekend traffic.

The driver of the passenger train had been arrested by British Transport Police and questioned about the crash before being released on bail overnight. He remained under investigation for a possible manslaughter charge. Police said the driver, whose identity was not released, had passed an alcohol breath test.

Service was suspended until wreckage strewn across the rail line could be cleared. Two mangled passenger cars lay on their sides and a third sat piggyback on freight cars.

Six of the 13 people who suffered serious injuries in the crash remained hospitalized, two of them in critical condition.

Three investigations were under way _ by the Transport Police, by Railtrack, which is responsible for the track, and by the government’s Health and Safety department.

David Eves of the Health and Safety department said his team had gathered evidence, including signal box recordings, that could provide information on conversations between drivers and signal staff, as well as the signals each train was given.

The driver of the freight train, who also was not identified, was not charged with anything and was no longer being questioned, Transport Police said.

Police finished searching the crash site early Saturday afternoon and freed the area for cleanup, but the heavy work to be done by the cranes could not begin right away because they required hours of assembly.

The last three bodies were removed from the wreckage overnight. Among the six dead was one of Sweden’s most famous broadcast journalists, Marcus Olander _ London correspondent for Swedish radio.

All of the seriously injured were British.

One man with serious chest and leg injuries was reported in critical condition at the New Charing Cross Hospital after a 9 1/2-hour operation. A second man was in critical but stable condition in intensive care at the Royal London Hospital. Four other injured passengers remained hospitalized Saturday; two were released.

About 150 people were slightly hurt, and many other people were able to walk away from the train, shaken but uninjured.

Friday’s accident was the worst rail crash in Britain since December 1988, when three trains collided outside Clapham Junction in south London, killing 35 people and injuring 113.

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