A motorist who died when his car was hit by a train on a level crossing has been named as Dennis William France. The 65 year old was driving a red Peugeot 306 which apparently drove through a closing barrier near Athelney between Taunton and Castle Cary, Somerset, last Thursday.
The vehicle was struck by the 05.46 service from Exeter to London Paddington and was shunted half-a-mile down the track. Yesterday an inquest into his death was opened and adjourned in Taunton by Michael Rose, the coroner for West Somerset.
The court was told that Mr France, of Curload near Stoke St Gregory, Somerset, died of "traumatic injuries". A full inquest will be held later.
"Quick response by emergency crews stopped crash being even worse"
The Senior Fire Commander at the scene of the level crossing crash in Somerset says dealing with it was a challenge in dangerous circumstances.
The train struck the vehicle and then carried it along the tracks eventually stopping over a mile from the crossing. Firefighters had to run to the scene carrying firefighting and rescue equipment to deal with the person trapped in the car, deal with the very real risk of a fire occurring as well as dealing with nearly 40 people on the train in terrible weather conditions.
– Paul Cregan, Devon and Somerset Fire & Rescue Service
The Incident Commander says that the quick response of all the crews involved was crucial.
Our Fire & Rescue crews from Taunton, Bridgwater, Street, Middlemoor, Wiveliscombe, Wellington and Burnham worked exceptionally hard under difficult conditions to deal with the incident. Without their quick response and that of our emergency service partners, the incident could have been much worse.
My thanks go to our Police colleagues in Avon & Somerset Constabulary, British Transport Police and South Western Ambulance Service as well as the local community for their work, support and patience during this incident.
– Mark Andrews, Devon and Somerset Fire & Rescue Service
A man has been killed and train services from the South West to London severely disrupted after a train struck a car at a level crossing near Taunton. It happened at the Athelney crossing at around 6.30 am. Our Somerset Correspondent David Woodland has sent this report from the scene:
Bob Crow, the general secretary of the RMT transport union has commented on this morning's crash at the level crossing near Taunton, calling for action to be taken to address the dangers.
This latest, shocking fatality will once again shine the spotlight on safety issues at level crossings.
RMT has been campaigning for many years to speed up the phasing-out of level crossings which are a 19th Century solution in an age of high-speed railways.
Wherever road and track come together there is a clear and present danger and as we see far too often it is a lethal combination and the time has come to get serious about addressing this issue - cost should not override public and staff safety.
"Barriers were lowered when car drove onto the track"
Witnesses of the fatal train crash in Somerset have said the barriers at the level crossing were lowered when the car drove on to the track.
A spokesman for Network Rail said: "The train driver and First Great Western staff have given a statement to British Transport Police that the barriers were lowered and the car was seen to drive on to the crossing."
Firefighters from Devon & Somerset Fire Service have now removed the vehicle from the front of the train using hydraulic cutting equipment. Crews are still at the scene assisting other emergency services and rail operators.