Suffolk Train Crash crews commended

Wednesday, 18 August, 2010

Last night, Tuesday, August 17, the East of England Ambulance Service major incident plan was evoked when a call was received to a report of a train in collision with a sewage taker on a level crossing in Little Cornard, Suffolk.

A National Express East Anglia service travelling between Sudbury and Marks Tey.

The two-carriage diesel passenger train, struck the lorry shortly after 5.30pm. The lorry was split open in the collision, spilling slurry over the scene. The front carriage of the two-car service, which was carrying more than 20 passengers, derailed after the crash but remained upright.

Six ambulances, five officers, a PTS vehicle, Major Incident Unit and a full HART team deployment and two air ambulances attended the scene. The St John Ambulance Service provided support at the incident. The decision to declare a major incident was quickly identified as the initial report was that there were a significant number of casualties who were believed to be trapped on two carriages of which the extent of injuries was unknown.

The HART team worked closely with the Fire Brigade to ensure that the scene was made safe, whilst the first Ambulance Officer on scene Matt Broad, ensured that access and egress points were in place to enable rapid transportation of patients once they had been extricated. Communication was the key success throughout the management of this incident with all officers in place to facilitate the required tasks, such as the casualty clearing station and RVP points.

Karl Edwards, general manager for Cambridgeshire who attended the scene said: "All patients were quickly triaged as per the major incident triage sieve and divided into the priority categories. Meanwhile my role as incident silver was to ensure that the gold commander operating from within the Chelmsford health and emergency operations centre was fully updated and with the assistance of other officers on scene, we were able to ensure that correct levels of resources were on route to convey the varying priority patients and that the acute receiving hospitals were aware of which patients they were receiving."

The whole operation ran smoothly which is an absolute credit to those front line ambulance staff who delivered an exceptional level of care and professionalism. Throughout the incident close partnership working with the other emergency services was paramount and the end result was that all patients were safely and quickly removed from the scene, assessed and treated and then conveyed to the appropriate hospital. The air ambulances were a great asset to enable those patients with significant injuries to be rapidly transported to the specialist acute trusts for their respective injuries. Karl added: "I would like to thank all of those that were involved in this incident and they should be proud of the way in which this was dealt with as a team effort."

David Donegan, chief operating officer praised the trusts involvement, he said: "Having attended the scene myself, I was very impressed by the response. Given the rural location and challenging nature of this incident, to have quickly established effective coordination, triage, treatment and transfer of those effected from the scene is a testament to everyone involved at every level. I would like to express my thanks to all our staff and partners. This was the first test of our revised major incident arrangements and first major deployment of the full HART capability, and involved support from emergency care, primary care, the media department, partnership and special operations. While we will always have issues to reflect on, this was a really professional trust wide response of which we should all be proud.'

Twenty casualties were triaged at the scene and following their treatment and stabilisation, they were conveyed between the two receiving hospitals, in Cambridgeshire and Colchester by land and by air.

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