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AN off-duty police officer tried in vain to prevent yesterday's deadly crash of a 300-passenger train that hit a car at a rail crossing in southern England, police said toda
AN off-duty police officer tried in vain to prevent yesterday's deadly crash of a 300-passenger train that hit a car at a rail crossing in southern England, police said today.
The officer had spotted the stationary car on the rural crossing with the road barrier up moments before the high-speed crash, which claimed six lives.
"The barrier then came down and the police officer went to the emergency phone. But before he could get any response a train came through and hit the car," Deputy Chief Constable Andy Trotter, of British Transport Police, said.
The train ploughed into the vehicle and flew off the rails near the village of Ufton Nervet, 65km west of London.
Police said one of those killed was in the car, but they did not know why the motorist had stopped.
"We are going to get the vehicle examined, so that we can find out whether or not there is any mechanical defect, which may help to explain what happened," Mr Trotter said.
He said it was astonishing that so many of the passengers had survived the devastating crash of the eight-carriage train, which was travelling from London's Paddington station to Plymouth.
Train operator First Great Western, a subsidiary of rail and bus operator FirstGroup, said the train driver was another of the dead. Among the scores injured, 11 were seriously hurt.
Rail analysts said the train would have been travelling at 160km/h as it approached the crossing and passengers said it braked hard just before the crash.
There was no indication that infrastructure failure or railway staff were responsible for the crash in a country where rail safety has been a political issue since the industry's privatisation in the 1990s.
Britain's biggest rail union called for the elimination of level crossings on high-speed rail lines.
Anthony Smith, director of the Rail Passengers Council, said it was crucial a thorough investigation was carried out.
"There are two big questions which need answering quickly - what was the car doing on the railway line and why did the train derail in such a catastrophic fashion?"
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