A WEEK which saw Yorkshire celebrate the return of the iconic Flying Scotsman will end with sadness today when the county marks the anniversary of the darkest day in its railway heritage.
Fifteen years have elapsed since 10 people were killed at Great Heck near Selby where an inter-city train struck a Land Rover and trailer straddling the line and was derailed into the path of an oncoming freight train.
A further 82 people were also injured in the crash, which took place at 6.30 on the morning of February 28, 2001.
There will be no public service today but families and friends of those killed will grieve in private at the memorial garden close to site of the tragedy.
The accident claimed the lives of both train drivers, Steve ‘George’ Dunn from Brayton, North Yorkshire, who was delivering coal from the docks at Immingham to Ferrybridge power station, and John Weddle, from Newcastle, who was driving the GNER passenger train.
Two other GNER staff, guard Raymond Robson, from Whitley Bay, and chef Paul Taylor from Newcastle, also died.
The six passengers killed were Steve Baldwin, Alan Ensor, Barry Needham, Christopher Terry and Clive Vidgen, all from York, and Robert Shakespeare from Beverley.
Three helicopters and a fleet of ambulances ferried the injured to seven different hospitals across Yorkshire.
Five patients with serious spinal and pelvic injuries were taken to hospitals in Leeds.
Snow, sleet and freezing cold weather conditions slowed the rescue efforts.
An accident and emergency consultant at Pontefract General Infirmary said the first casualties started arriving at 0728 GMT, three with life-threatening injuries.
He said they were all in shock: “They were not speaking about it. As you can imagine when you’re travelling on a train and this sort of thing happens it is just unbelievable.”
Local resident Laura Watkinson was woken by the sound of the accident. She went to her bedroom window to see the wreckage of a train, still smoking, in her back garden.
She said: “There had been a huge explosion, like an earthquake or a bomb, as I was lying in bed with my husband Charles. It shook the whole house, and even the toothbrushes fell off the handbasin shelf.”
The driver of the Land Rover, Gary Hart from Strubby, Lincolnshire, was subsequently jailed for five years after being found guilty of 10 counts of causing death by dangerous driving.
Hart, who served 30 months in prison, was phoning emergency services for assistance when the intercity train struck his Land Rover and trailer, which had crashed off the M62 and onto the line.
He watched horrified as the passenger train smashed into his vehicle and came off the rails but continued moving straight into the path of the oncoming coal train.
It emerged at his trial that Hart had fallen asleep at the wheel having spent the previous night chatting to a woman he met on an internet dating site.
Hart has since gone on to say he believes he should not be held responsible for the two trains colliding: his insurers, who have paid out £22m in compensation, failed in their attempt to sue the Highways Agency on the grounds that the M62 crash barriers were inadequate.