Incident 49/2007

On Friday evening 23rd February, readers will be aware that the mainline Virgin train derailed at high speed in the Grayrigg area on the outskirts of Kendal, South Cumbria.

A major mobilisation call went out to some of the Cumbrian Mountain Rescue teams, as well as the obvious Fire, Police and Ambulance Services.

Two experienced members of Bolton MRT, Gyles Denn and Neil Ramsbottom, were journeying by car in the Lake District at the time of this incident en-route to Scales where they were intending to do a night-time ascent of Blencathra.

They were aware of the Bolton MRT sending out a pager message about our assistance to NWAS (GMA) which also included a message about the slight possibility (which subsequently did not happen) of the team possibly being called to assist the Lakes teams.

As it was, they only received part of this message on their pagers (due to poor reception) and were aware of a major incident in Cumbria, a phone call back home to team member Louise Jorgensen established that it was a train crash.

Being relatively close the incident they both drove towards the incident area and immediately volunteered themselves to the search and rescue effort, being teamed up initially with members of Langdale/Ambleside MRT, and then members of Kendal Mountain Search & Rescue Team.

There follows below an account of the incident written by Gyles Denn and Neil Ramsbottom which describes what happened.

In this account, “Rambo” refers to Neil Ramsbottom – the other names are obvious….

Friday – Saturday 23-24 February 2007
Grayrigg Train Crash, outside Kendal, Cumbria

Rambo and I were on the way to Scales, Cumbria when the team pager went off. Due to the remote location (Patterdale) the message came through very broken, all we got was “possible direct ID”. Assuming this was a search in the Bolton area I rang Louise to see if we were needed back at home; she informed me of the train crash and the possible deployment of Bolton MRT. As we were in Cumbria I requested Louise to speak to our Team Leader (Bolton Mountain Rescue) and request permission to deploy direct. As we only had a vague location we headed towards Tebay, knowing the railway line nears the motorway at this point. Louise texted through a more precise location of Grayrigg which we plugged into two sat nav’s with no luck, I find it on the map and make our way there.

At this point we fully expect to be turned away at the police cordon.

When we arrive and inform the police officer on the cordon we are MR (showing our ID cards), he thanks us for any help we can give. He lets us through, points us in the right direction and warns us its absolute chaos so make ourselves known. Half a mile down the road we find the first parked vehicle, this is where we parked up and got kitted up (me wearing Rambo’s coat that came down to my knees). We follow the road, lined with ambulances, fire appliances, police vehicles and all sorts of specialist unit vehicles. We then come across 20 or so paramedics awaiting the next batch of walking wounded, after liaising with the paramedics we decide to hold with them. A few minutes later a member of Langdale MR team appears, we decide its best to attach ourselves to the MR resource for suitable deployment, the paramedic team are happy with our decision and we wait with Langdale. A Kendal MR team member now arrives; they have been involved in stretchering casualties from the incident site to the helicopter zone. There are multiple helicopters working in shifts to remove casualties to hospitals and loading areas; we are requested to join in this operation. We follow the Kendal team member to the forward command centre and sign in on the MR register. Forward command is situated in the field next to the incident site.

The fire service request our help at the incident site but command (overall incident command) have realised a search is needed of the localised area for persons thrown from the wreckage or casualties that have walked from the crash site. This is an obvious task for MR. Kendal has command of the MR involvement and deploys three MR teams, Kendal, Penrith and Langdale into three search areas. Rambo and I are attached to Kendal. The search includes all buildings inclusive of outhouses, barns etc, the police have also requested we speak to all residents (“knock and wake up”) to check if they have taken in or spotted any walking wounded.

We remain on the search until the areas are cleared; at this point we are stood down, approximately 2.30am.

Gyles Elliot Denn/Neil Ramsbottom
Bolton MRT

A short account of Giles’ and Neil’s first impressions as they arrived on scene follows….

“Organised Chaos”

When we arrive we are confronted by what on first appearance is complete chaos. Helicopters are in the air in holding positions awaiting the landing zone. The roads are lined for a mile with appliances of all types and services, Police, Ambulance, Fire, Army, MR, International Rescue, Cave Rescue, BASICS doctors and engineering teams (railway). Many of the early responding vehicles have gone straight to the forward command field and are completely bogged down. An ambulance is stuck across the access road so the fire service deploys their 4×4 forklift vehicle to lift the ambulance out of the way. The area is ablaze with blue lights so it’s impossible to maintain any night vision. However through all the chaos the job is getting done, people are getting the help they need, which is all that counts (it’s the only reason we’re all there).

On stand down we travel slowly in the car as the clutch has gone, to Temple Sowersby to bivi on Dan and Claire’s lawn (ex Bolton MRT team members), only to find out when we finally wake that they’re not even there. Before we can climb into our very welcome sleeping bags we’ve had to dismantle the fuel cap in Rambo’s car as the key is stuck and now broken. We’re happily asleep on the lawn at around 5am.

Amongst the many MRTs present at this major incident were Kendal, Langdale/Ambleside, Penrith, Patterdale, Kirkby Stephen, Cockermouth, Keswick, Cave Rescue Organisation and the RAF Mountain Rescue Service.

RAF SAR helicopters were present from RAF Valley, Boulmer and Leconfield with multiple resources from Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service, North West Ambulance Service, British Transport Police, Cumbria Constabulary, Merseyside Police Air Support Unit and International Rescue.

Come daybreak on the Saturday morning and into Saturday afternoon, the following MRTs were called to continue searches of the areas adjacent to the train crash: Bowland Pennine, Duddon & Furness, and Kendal.