- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 7, 2004

LONDON (AP) — Police yesterday were trying to determine whether a suicide was the cause of a train crash that killed six persons and seriously injured 11 after a car stopped on the tracks in front of the high-speed train.

Investigators were examining the car wreckage to determine whether the vehicle had stopped because of a mechanical problem or whether the driver had intended to place the car on the crossing.

An off-duty police officer who witnessed the Saturday crash west of London said the car was stopped on a crossing in the village of Ufton Nervet when automatic barriers on either side of the tracks came down.

The officer tried to alert train operators by using an emergency phone at the crossing, but the locomotive struck the car before he could get through, said Andy Trotter, deputy chief constable of the British Transport Police.

The drivers of the train and the car, and four train passengers were killed in the crash at about 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Thames Valley Police said. The train’s eight carriages and two engines were derailed.

Mr. Trotter said suicide was one possibility. “We never jump to conclusions, but obviously this is a major line of inquiry when you get such unusual behavior,” he said. “We won’t make any assumptions.”

More than 20 ambulances and 14 fire engines rushed to the scene, 36 miles west of London.

It was the first major accident on Britain’s rail network since 2002, when seven persons died in a crash at the suburban Potters Bar station north of London. That crash and five other major train accidents killed 59 persons over five years from 1997. Several of the crashes were blamed on poorly maintained tracks.

The train that derailed Saturday was carrying about 300 passengers. About 80 persons were treated at two local hospitals for injuries, although many had only minor cuts and bruises, ambulance and hospital officials said.

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