Selby crash: Driver 'may have fallen asleep at wheel'

Thursday, March 01, 2001
Police say the driver of the Land Rover that caused the Selby rail disaster may have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Investigators say it is one reason why the four-wheel drive may have careered off a motorway into the path of an express train, causingh the crash in which 13 people died.

As the driver Gary Hart frantically called police on his mobile phone, the 4.45am Newcastle-to-London GNER train ploughed into his vehicle.

It then smashed almost head-on into a freight train loaded with 1,000 tonnes of coal, at a combined speed of more than 150mph.

As heavy lifting gear was brought in to begin the task of clearing the mangled carriages from the track, Superintendent Tony Thompson, of British Transport Police, revealed that one of the possibilities being considered for the cause was that Mr Hart, 36, of Lincolnshire, might have fallen asleep at the wheel.

"Clearly all aspects of why the vehicle went off the road are being covered," Mr Thompson said.

Pressed on whether that included looking at whether Mr Hart fell asleep, Mr Thompson said: "Yes, absolutely, that is obviously one of the conclusions that might be drawn. That is one of them, as well as obviously the technical aspects of the vehicle, and the road surface."

As rescue crews worked, well-wishers placed bouquets of flowers on the bridge overlooking the scene of the tragedy.

But North Yorkshire Police deputy chief constable Peter Walker warned "sightseers" not to visit the scene of the accident because of the possibility that unnecessary visits could help spread foot and mouth disease.

South Yorkshire Police say five bodies were recovered from outside the carriage and that officers are now recovering bodies from inside for the first time.