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Rail crash inquiry ordered

GNER train
Images from the crash site

GREAT HECK, England (CNN) -- An investigation is under way into the high-speed train crash in which 13 people died on one the fastest sections of track in Britain.

Authorities say a series of bizarre incidents led to the crash in northern England which seriously injured 10 people and dozens more suffered lesser injuries.

The investigation is likely to focus on how a car crash sparked a chain of events which led to a passenger train colliding with a freight train travelling in the opposite direction.

Rail safety - what can be done? Juliet Jowit of the FT on who’s to blame.
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Chris Jackson of The Railway Gazette: "A high-impact collision"

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Gary Young of British Transport Police: "A major incident"

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Selby Rail crash Selby Train Crash
  •  Collision map
  •  Motorist's 999 call
  •  'Like a bomb'
  •  Emergency response
  •  The day in quotes
  •  Official reaction
  •  Blow to UK railroads
  •  Rail company statement
  •  UK rail crash timeline

UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott told Parliament a Land Rover four-wheel drive car veered off a motorway and travelled 100 metres along an embankment before crashing onto the tracks.

It left the road 30 metres before the start of a section of barriers designed to prevent vehicles crashing onto the tracks.

The Land Rover driver used his mobile phone to warn North Yorkshire police that his car was across the rail line at Great Heck, near Selby in north Yorkshire.

But as he was speaking to police the Newcastle-to-London train hit his vehicle, before going on to collide with the oncoming freight train.

Prescott said: "The time between the emergency call and the first collision was some 40 seconds and the two trains crashed within seconds of that."

He added: "These are a set of circumstances that defy belief. If I had said that we would get an accident in this particular way, I think most people would have said it is not possible.

"Like in all these tragedies it is never ever one incident, it is two or three things together that make for the tragedy."

The passenger train's coaches were hurled into nearby fields where they landed on their sides, trapping some passengers inside the mangled carriages. The drivers of both trains were among those killed.

Prescott told MPs: "It is essential that this appalling tragedy is subject to the fullest investigation."

He said he had asked the Health and Safety Executive to prepare an interim report "within the next few days" so that he could make a decision on what further steps needed to be taken.

Police say they will work throughout the night to recover the bodies from the rail disaster and collect evidence for their investigation.

Cranes will be brought in to clear wreckage from a muddy field strewn with twisted carriages from the passenger train.

Police say it is possible that the death toll may go up as more victims could be located beneath the wreckage.

Ironically, the engine powering the passenger train was the same one involved in Britain's last fatal rail crash five months ago at Hatfield, near London, in which four people died.

That crash was blamed on faulty track and forced network operator Railtrack to carry out safety checks and repairs that caused a winter of disruption to the rail network. Speed restrictions still in operation across some parts of Britain.

Residents from the villages dotted around the train crash scene on Wednesday night gathered at Snaith Priory Church to say prayers for the dead and injured.

The Bishop of Doncaster, the Rt Rev Cyril Ashton, led the service, which had originally been scheduled to celebrate Ash Wednesday.

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Great North Eastern Railway

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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