Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Clapham survivor: I was lucky one

Twenty-five years on from the Clapham rail disaster, badly-injured passenger Alison Clark reckons she is a lucky woman - lucky that she remembers little of the crash, and lucky that she is alive.

"Three people sitting close to me died," said Ms Clark, now 49, who was heading for London on the 6.14am Poole to Waterloo train on the fateful morning of December 12 1988.

Travelling at the front of the train which slammed into a stationary London-bound train, Ms Clark received such bad head and face injuries that it was three weeks before she regained consciousness at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south London.

Looking back down the years at an accident which claimed 35 lives and which injured more than 100 people, Ms Clark is philosophical.

Now an IT employee at Bournemouth University, she says: "I was very, very lucky. Three people sitting close to me didn't make it. God looked after me. I think it helped that I don't remember anything about the crash."

With her parents waiting anxiously at her bedside, Ms Clark finally came round in the early days of 1989. She remembers: "They bought my border collie Chuckles to see me and he was about the first thing I recognised. I was sure pleased to see him."

Months of physio followed for her as well as plastic surgery. She says: "I had to get my balance right. I was a bit doddery on my feet."

Eventually, after 13 months off work, Ms Clark was able to return to her job at the Ministry of Agriculture in London.

"I used the train when I started work again, but I was never happy doing so. They had been really nice to me at work, but I decided to move to a job nearer home," she says.

So in 1990, Ms Clark started work at Bournemouth University. She still carries the physical scars from Clapham, including a large lump on her head but, mercifully, the mental scars have healed.

She says: "I was an infrequent churchgoer before the crash but now I go every week. I don't travel on trains unless I have to. I think train safety has probably improved, judging by the fact that we've had no bad accidents in recent years."

Ms Clark attends the major anniversaries of the crash. She feels she ought to go, although the first time was somewhat odd.

She recalls: "It was strange. People from the emergency services recognised me and were pleased to see me but I didn't know who they were.

"All those who helped me - the firefighters, the pupils from that nearby school, ambulance people, the medical staff - they were all amazing."

Next week, on the anniversary day of December 12, there will be a small prayer service attended just by family and friends at the crash memorial garden by Spencer Park, which is close to Clapham Junction station

Later that morning there will be a larger, public remembrance service at the memorial garden. The Reverend Canon Hilary Johnson will conduct both services.


From Belfast Telegraph