Woman paralysed by Orient Express emergency stop

May 20, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A woman is suing the owners of the Orient Express after she was thrown from a seat on the iconic train and left paralysed for life, it has emerged.

Devastated Sylvia Brown, 60, paid £7,000 for a dream holiday in Thailand on the famous long-distance passenger locomotive.

She had travelled to Asia to celebrate her 60th birthday and 40th Ruby wedding anniversary with husband John, 64.

The couple were on the Eastern and Oriental Express observation car when the driver suddenly applied the emergency brakes.

Sylvia, of Honiton, Devon, ”somersaulted” through the air and landed on her head on the floor of the train – breaking her neck.

She was rushed to hospital in Thailand where she spent 16 days in intensive care before being transferred back to the UK.

Mum-of-two Sylvia has been left paralysed for life and has been told she will never walk again.

She is now suing the holiday firm, the owners of the Orient Express and its parent company for undisclosed damages.

Sylvia said: ”The train stopped with an almighty bang. There was nothing to grab, and I flew up into the air and kept turning and turning until I hit the floor.

”I was the only one sitting down. Other passengers were standing and had bars to hold on to so they only suffered bruising.

”At times the pain is just unbelievable. Sometimes I just scream with agony trying to perform the simplest tasks. I was expecting a fantastic trip on this world famous train, not to end up in a wheelchair.”

Businessman John and Sylvia boarded the Orient Express on November 4 after spending a few days in Hong Kong as part of a £7,000 trip through holiday firm Bath Travel.

On the second morning of the journey they were sitting in the observation carriage when the train halted suddenly without warning.

Sylvia was thrown from her cushioned seat and landed awkwardly with one shoulder, hitting a seat in front and the rest of her body crashing on the floor.

She broke her c6 spine bone in her neck and for months was tetraplegic – unable to use any limbs – but feeling has now returned to her arms, although she will never walk again.

She said: ”I thought I was completely paralysed from the neck down at first but now I’ve got some sensation back in my arms.

”But I have had to give up work and my life has now changed forever. It is a complete nightmare.

”It’s so frustrating, because I used to be able to do so much myself, and I hate asking other people for help, but I have got no choice at the moment.”

Sylvia was taken to Bangkok Hospital and spent two weeks in intensive care before being flown back to Britain where medics found she had C.difficile.

She says has been left to ”fend for herself” after the horror smash and has been forced to give up work at the Devon Wildlife Trust.

The couple are now suing Bath Travel, Eastern Orient Express and its parent company Venice Simplon Orient Express Ltd.

They have issued proceedings against all three companies at the High Court for ”rehabilitation expenses” and ”compensation for lifelong disability-related needs”.

Sylvia said the companies have declined ”repeated requests” over the past five months to negotiate any financial compensation.

It is believed the legal dispute has resulted from the cause of the accident never being determined, meaning it remains unclear who is to blame.

The couple, who have two adult children, say they face the ”heartbreaking” decision of having to sell their house because they cannot afford to pay for her long-term care.

They say they are being forced to sell their house in Exeter and are now renting a bungalow in nearby Honiton because no compensation has been agreed.

Sylvia said: ”I just don’t understand why someone won’t take responsibility and say ‘yes, it’s my fault’. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

It is understood that the train company leases the coaches from the State Railway of Thailand, which also manages the railway line.

Julian Chamberlayne, a partner at the Stewart’s Law firm in central London, which is representing the couple, said his clients could not afford to pay for Sylvia’s long-term care.

He said: ”Their legal position is they are still investigating, but Sylvia is left in limbo while they sift through what went wrong.

”This is a couple who have worked hard, and they feel they’ve lost everything. They were innocent passengers yet they have been left to fend for themselves and that is just not good enough.

”What is heartbreaking is that through no fault of their own, they are faced with a situation of selling their house and living apart for the first time in 40 years, to pay for all of this.”

Andrew Bath, the joint managing director for Bath Travel, declined to comment and said it was ”in the hands of solicitors”.

A spokeswoman for the Eastern and Oriental Express added: ”We are deeply concerned about Mrs Brown but as this matter is now with our lawyers we can’t discuss the matter.”

A spokesman for the State Railway of Thailand was unavailable for comment.

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