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'Suicide' theory over train crash

An official at the scene of Saturday's crash.
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Devastation as high-speed train hits car on the tracks.
Great Britain

LONDON, England -- Police investigating a train crash in southern England in which seven people died are focusing on a theory that a driver parked a car on the rails in an attempt to commit suicide.

Witnesses say the man stopped on a remote level crossing near the Berkshire village near Reading on Saturday evening.

An off-duty Thames Valley Police officer saw the car on the track as the barriers came down but had only just reached an emergency phone when the 100 mph train struck.

Six people died in the impact -- including the driver of the car and the driver of the train -- and a seventh died in hospital on Sunday.

The London-to-Plymouth First Great Western express train, with around 300 people on board, crashed at around 6.15 p.m. on Saturday.

British Transport Police Deputy Chief Constable Andy Trotter, told reporters at the scene on Monday: "I have read the statement of the off-duty officer.

"He saw the stationary vehicle on the crossing. He then saw the barriers come down. Realizing there will be an impending disaster, ran to the emergency phone but before he could get through, the train came through.

"He saw the crash, he then called the emergency services on his mobile phone and he then started to organize the emergency services for the major incident."

He said the statement did not include any report of a conversation between the officer and the driver of the car.

Trotter said all the bodies had now been removed from the site and a crane was being constructed to begin the slow process of clearing the wreckage, which could day a number of days.

The officer described the disaster site as a "particularly shocking scene".

Passengers told how they used mobile phones and novelty glowsticks as impromptu torches to guide them to safety after the collision.

Student Jonathon Stace, 21, from London, who suffered an arm injury, said: "The lights went out. I felt like we spun over and after that I could feel bodies going on top of me and being thrown different places."

Work continued overnight at the scene under tall floodlights, and heavy lifting equipment was being constructed this morning.

A total of 18 patients remained in hospital on Monday.

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