Investigators Inspect Rail Switches After England Train Crash

Saturday, February 24th 2007, 3:26 pm

By: News On 6

LAMBRIGG, England (AP) _ Authorities examined railroad switches Saturday as they tried to determine what caused a high-speed commuter train to derail in northwestern England, sending carriages hurtling down an embankment and killing one passenger.

Safety inspectors were investigating whether the switches had been left in the wrong position, throwing the carriages off the track, said Chief Superintendent Martyn Ripley of the British Transport Police.

Officials were focusing on one set of switches in particular, said Thomas Edwards, lead inspector for the Rail Accident Investigation Board.

The Glasgow-bound Virgin train, carrying 120 passengers and staff, crashed Friday night in countryside near the town of Lambrigg, 270 miles northwest of London. A total of 77 passengers were injured, five seriously.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, said Saturday lives were probably spared because the train _ a new model introduced in 2003 _ was ``built like a tank.''

``If it had been any of the old trains the injuries and fatalities would have been horrendous,'' he said.

Rescue workers had to search along muddy country lanes to locate the scene of the accident in the remote area. Local farmers had arrived ahead of them to help evacuate the injured. They were transported to hospitals by Royal Air Force helicopters.

``We are amazed that we didn't have more fatalities on the scene _ we have been very fortunate. It is little short of a miracle,'' Ripley said.

Cumbria police said an 84-year-old woman died of her injuries in the hospital.

The front two carriages of the Pendolino train, which has a tilting mechanism that enables it to reach speeds of 125 mph, had been hurled off the track and down the embankment. Seven other carriages snaked behind, with one on its side.

Virgin Trains spokesman Lee West said the train was traveling at 95 mph at the time of the accident.

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