Two people were left fighting for their lives last night and 16 more were injured after a train collided with a lorry at a level crossing yesterday evening.
Residents told how they rushed to the scene after hearing a ”loud bang” and helped to pull passengers from the wreckage.
A 36-year-old road contractor, who lives 200 yards from where the incident happened and did not want to be named, said he was first on the scene.
He said: ”It sounded like an explosion, we thought a bomb had gone off.
”The lorry tried to come across the train lines. The train came and hit it in the side and it folded the lorry right up in half.
”As we got there the lorry burst open and sprayed sewage everywhere.
”We forced open a door on the train and climbed inside. It was very quiet, everybody was sitting there because they had been told by the conductor not to get off the train.
”But diesel was pouring everywhere and we had to get them out. Most of the people didn’t know what was happening, they were in shock.
”All the damage was caused to people sitting by the tables. Nobody had seatbelts on so as soon as it hit the lorry they hit the cables.
”People were injured but there was no blood except one girl who had a nosebleed.
”It took five minutes to get everybody off but there were some that we couldn’t. The driver was trapped in there and there was an elderly lady who couldn’t move.
”Nobody was panicking or screaming, they were just sitting there calm. The police arrived five minutes later, we’d got about 20 people off the train.
”There was diesel all over the place and sewage coming off the truck.”
Angie Christie, who lives 200 yards away from the site of the train wreck, was one of the first to arrive on the scene after the crash.
She said: ”There was one almighty woomph – we thought a plane had come down. I ran along the road with a few other people.
”At first it was chaos. Several people were injured, some quite seriously, and I was helping the walking wounded.
”They said it had happened so suddenly they didn’t know what was going on. One minute they were sitting there and the next they were injured.
”All of them had injuries to their ribs where they had crashed against the tables.
”The train wasn’t on its side but it had tipped over quite a way. The back of the lorry was on one side and the cab was on the other as if it had been cut in half.
”People were extremely brave. There was not a sound. People were in shock but there was no screaming. It was very quiet.”
Eric Kinnard, 78, a local resident on the road said: ”Everyone was out on the street and there was one chap saying that his daughter was on the train.
”He was a bit on edge and trying to get to the train track.”
A spokeswoman from the ambulance service confirmed that a total of 18 people had been treated for injuries with four who were in a serious condition.
She said: ”There were 18 casualties of which 14 were walking wounded and were taken to Colchester General Hospital by land ambulance.
”Two people sustained serious but not life threatening injuries. One was airlifted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital and one taken by land ambulance to Colchester General Hospital.
”A further two people were in a critical condition with life-threatening injuries. Both were airlifted one to Colchester and the other to Addenbrooke’s.”
Group manager Karl Rolfe for Suffolk Fire and Rescue service said the crash had been a ”substantial collision”.
Firefighters who arrived at the scene found two 35 ton carriages in collision with a 44 ton articulated lorry, the tractor unit of which had become separated with the impact.
Rescue workers extricated some passengers from the carriages through the doors, while others were taken out through the train windows.
Those with injuries were taken to local hospitals, while two passengers requiring urgent attention who were trapped in the wreckage were airlifted to Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge.
Karl Rolfe said: ”The front carriage of the two that were in collision had derailed and was leaning towards the embankment.
”We worked quickly to stabilise this using specialist equipment, a powersure and a tirfor winch so emergency services could access the carriage.
”We had to assist the medical services in extricating the most serious casualties in order of priority, which was decided by the ambulance service.
”We were able to extricate some casualties through the carriage and out of the doors.
”Others were taken out through the windows and we put a platform up to the side of the train.
”There were children, adults and elderly casualties, just an ordinary mix of people you would expect to find on a train.
”From the impact you can see that it was a substantial collision.
”We have now left the area as it is now a crime scene and we have formally handed it over to the British Transport Police.”
Of the priority types, there were two priority one passengers requiring urgent extradition, two priority twos and a number of priority threes and lesser casualties.