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Aftermath of Murulla Train Disaster

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Wednesday 15 September 1926, The Sydney Morning Herald

SURVIVORS' STORIES.
Bodies Hurled in all directions.
RESCUES BY MATCHLIGHT.
SCENES IN THE SHATTERED CARRIAGES.

Shortly after 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon Sydney Central Station became the rendezvous of numerous relations and friends of the people on the ill-fated train. Those assembled in groups of four or five around the indicator board which announced the arrivals of the trains from the country centres, and as the word was passed along that the train from Glen Innes arriving about 4 p.m. would convey the first batch of survivors, a steady stream of people poured through the gates of No. 1 platform till almost all available standing space and seating accommodation were taxed.

One of the first of the survivors to step out of the Glen Innes train which arrived on Sydney Central Station shortly after 4 o’clock in the afternoon was Mr. Manchee, grazier, of Moree, who was greeted by some anxious friends and relations. Mr. Manchee said the scenes he had witnessed were indescribable. For almost one hour the survivors were left to their own resources to improvise ambulance equipment and relief measures before assistance came. Fires were lighted on the banks on each side of the train, the splintered carriages providing the fuel. The work of rescue was made the more difficult through the darkness, which was relieved here and there by the spurt of a match flame as some group of rescuers groped their way after the sufferers inside the shattered second-class compartment. This compartment, on which the bulk of the rescue work centred, Mr. Manchee described as a shambles. The behaviour of the people was wonderful, and there was an entire absence of panic. The conduct of the schoolgirls in particular was exemplary. They did not scream nor show excitement, but quietly did as they were told.

Mr. J. Squire, of Camperdown, was another survivor who arrived by the 4 o’clock train. Welcomed by his wife on the station, Mr. Squire emerged from the train limping badly as a result of a crushed knee, and he bore his pain with quiet resignation. He was in the carriage behind the shattered compartment, and considered himself one of the lucky ones.

Another to escape almost unhurt was Miss Jones, of Katoomba.

EXTRICATING THE VICTIMS.

A well-known Sydney business man, who was travelling with his wife and young son on the train, described the appearance of the shattered carriage as one of unforgettable gruesomeness. Heads, arms, and legs were jumbled up in all directions, bodies being piled upon each other in heaps. The whole scene was one of horror. The work of extricating the victims was extremely arduous owing to the darkness, and also on account of the closely wedged position of the victims, many of whom could not be moved, after levering or hacking away woodwork, without seriously hurting some unfortunate sufferer alongside.

A pathetic scene was witnessed as a father fought for an hour to save his ten-year-old son’s life. The boy, whose back was badly injured, lay at the foot of the ill-fated second-class compartment, and his father had literally to hack his way, piece by piece, through the wood to reach the boy, who bore his pain with splendid fortitude.

The bodies of the two men who were on the runaway wool wagons were found, both dead, one badly battered, near the railway fence among some bales of wool. The other had received terrible head injuries. Both had apparently been hurled several yards by the force of the collision.

MENACE OF FIRE.

George Smith, conductor of the following train, said that when he came on the scene he found that the carriage on one of the bogies had been completely swept away, leaving nothing but the bogie and the floor. He considered it was little short of a wonder that things were not worse, as the flames from the burning wool, which were shooting fifty feet into the air, might very easily have caught the train and the unextricated victims.

Survivors described their first impressions of the moment of the collision in excited and vivid fashion. One likened it to a “series of jumps, followed by a bang.” Another described his first impression as a rude awakening from sleep, a hurtling of portmanteaux through the air on to the floor of the sleeper, whilst he himself was tumbling from an upper bunk on top of them.

With commendable promptitude scores of the able-bodied survivors made for the scene of greatest suffering as they recovered themselves, and emerged from their carriages ; and rescue parties worked in groups of twos and threes right up to 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning, some going on till daylight. The guard’s van was searched for ambulance equipment, but none could be found amidst the welter of mailbags and packages.

AIDING THE SUFFERERS.

Sheets from the sleeper and handkerchiefs were used as bandages and bindings, and the cushions from the compartment seats were made into comfortable stretchers for the sufferers as they were lined out on the grass. One local doctor, a man of nearly 70 years of age, arrived on the scene in his pyjamas, scarcely an hour after the accident. Suddenly aroused from sleep, this gentleman rushed to the scene with first aid and surgical kit, and performed amazingly hard work in assisting the wounded, and helping with the rescue of the victims. One victim, a man was found jammed between two carriages, whilst a dead man lay wedged on top of him, and the rescuers were compelled to sever the dead man’s limbs to free the man below.

SCHOOLBOYS’ EXPERIENCES.

Two school boys, David Secconde, aged 12 and Tom Scholefield, aged 14, said that they were in the first coach of the Moree mail train at the time of the accident, and were precipitated on to the floor. They made a hurried exit from their carriage into some prickly pear by the embankment. Their carriage escaped damage. The elder boy was on his way to Barker College, and the younger to the Beecroft Grammar School. They came from Rowena.

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Written by macalba

August 4, 2010 at 8:09 pm

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