Parishioners first at crash site

02 November 2006

THE Reading rail-crash victims will be remembered this Sunday in the tiny 12th-century church near where they died.

The names of the six who died when the London-to-Plymouth train hit a stationary car on a level crossing on Saturday night will be read out at St Mary’s, Sulhamstead Abbots. The driver of the car, who also died, will also be prayed for during the service.

Parishioners of St Mary and St Peter, Ufton Nervet, were first on the scene when the derailed express ploughed in the dark into the fields beside the track.

The Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Peter Dewey, said on Wednesday that the parishioners who lived in five or six houses near the level crossing rushed out of their houses, after putting on all their lights, and called the wounded and the dazed passengers across the fields to their homes.

"They brought them into their sitting-rooms. They said it was all mud and blood and horror. The ambulances could not get across the fields; so they had used their four-wheeled-drive vehicles to take the medics across and then to bring the stretchers back," he said.

The Revd Liam Johnston, director of the Railway Mission, said that British Transport police had alerted him on Saturday evening. One of his chaplains, the Revd Humphrey Gillott, a Baptist, had seen the news on television, and went straight to the site.

"He talked to a gentleman who had lost his daughter. He stayed on site all that night," Mr Johnston, who joined him on the site with two other chaplains from the London City Mission, said.

" Our primary concern was for the staff — there were 80 on site at any one time — but we also prayed with the families. On Monday and Tuesday, we were taking the families around the site to help them put their grief into some sort of perspective."

The Revd Jo Loveridge lives two miles from the crash site with her husband, Douglas, a chaplain at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.

"He was called in at about 7.30 p.m. on Saturday. I watched the breaking news on television and realised it was very near to my parish. I went to the Spring Inn at Ufton Nervet: people were being brought there in police cars from the crash to be reunited with their relatives. I was able to support relatives and pray with them. Alan Meakin, a pastor from the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion, was also there, and we worked as churches together."

Mr Loveridge said that five chaplains had been called into the hospital. "Two coaches arrived with the injured, and the A&E wards were cleared of everything else for them. The preparation done by the doctors and nurses was fantastic."


Visit: the Bishop of Reading, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, at the site. PA Photo

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