40 years since rail tragedy shocked a city

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The scene of the Granville Train Disaster in 1977

A former Police Rescue officer who personally rescued two people from the rubble of the Granville train disaster has reflected on the tragedy 40 years ago today.

Chief Inspector Gary Raymond APM, OAM (Retired) was a young member of the Police Rescue Squad which responded to the train derailment and bridge collapse in 1977 that claimed 83 lives and injured 213 others.

A crowded Blue Mountains eight-carriage service was heading to the city around 8.10am when the train left the tracks at Granville and struck the steel and concrete supports of the overhead Bold Street bridge.

About 30 seconds after the derailment, the bridge collapsed onto the already torn carriages.

Mr Raymond was one of several rescuers sent into the rubble to assess the situation.

“The Police Sergeant told me to get underneath the bridge and crushed carriages and ‘tell me what I’ve got,’” he reflected.

“10 people were alive but trapped…what we call ‘crushed syndrome’.

“We had to get in there and triage the injured people, work out what equipment we would need.

“One of the hazards we had was leaking liquid petroleum gas under there…train carriage cylinders which had been crushed by the bridge were leaking gas.

“We didn’t have time to look at the enormity of it (at that moment), you looked at it as a rescue rather than a sad, tragic event.

“But later on…when the job finished you’d reflect on the enormous sadness.

“Like some of the people who died in there still had playing cards in their hands…some were reading, still had papers in their hands…some were playing board games when the bridge came down, so you reflect on, I guess, the sadness of those who were on their way to work…it was school holidays.”

Among the many attending today’s anniversary at the Bold Street site will be acting NSW Police Commissioner, David Hudson APM.

“Granville remains Australia’s worst rail disaster and the nation will never forget that day,” Acting Commissioner Hudson said.

“But I also think this occasion allows us the opportunity to honour the bravery of the emergency services crews who ventured into the wreckage to rescue those trapped and the medical staff who then kept those victims alive.

“As much as it is about a tragedy, this anniversary is also about recognising Australian heroism and determination.”

Today’s commemorations will begin with an 8am remembrance ceremony at the Memorial Wall in Bold Street.

That will be followed by a 10am church service at St Mark’s Anglican Church in Mary Street, a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial, then a traditional ‘Day of the Roses’ commemoration where 83 roses will be thrown onto the tracks in honour of each victim.

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