A group of Croydon tram crash survivors will mount a legal case against tram operators after seven people were killed and 51 injured when a tram overturned last month.
Law firm Irwin Mitchell today announced it will represent the case against Transport for London and tram operator First Group. The claimants want ‘answers’ on the cause of the crash and compensation for the trauma and injuries they have suffered.
IM partner, Glen Edney said: “It is vital that we get answers for the victims and that they have access to any treatment and rehabilitation they need for their injuries and to help them overcome the trauma of the crash.”
The firm, which has represented people injured in transport disasters including Hatfield, Ladbroke Grove, Paddington and Selby train crashes, said it is now “helping to investigate exactly what went wrong” and that it hopes “lessons can be learned from the incident to improve tram safety in future.”
Speaking on the announcement, 25 year old Matthew Hewish recalled the trauma and injuries he suffered as a result of the crash.
“When I was thrown through the air as the tram came off the rails, I thought ‘this is it’.”
The tram, carrying an estimated 60 people, landed on its side after coming off the tracks near the Sandilands tram stop and travelled 25 metres before it came to a stop.
“I must have been knocked out or passed out”, Hewish recalled. “But when I came to I remember scrambling for my phone and using the light to try and see. I saw a guy whose face was covered in blood, but when I looked down at myself I seemed fine.
“It wasn’t until the initial shock subsided that I realised my ankle was trapped and my work boot was missing. I was in a lot of pain and no one could see a way out. Of course, now I know that I was one of the lucky ones.”
While Hewish considers himself “lucky”, he still suffers from the trauma of the crash and has required counselling. He also has been unable to take a tram since the tragedy.
“People died that day, and while I, and others like me, know how lucky we are to have survived, we have the same questions as the families of those who died. We want to know what happened,” he said.
“We want to know what could have been done, if anything to stop it and – most importantly – we need to stop it ever happening again.”
In response to the legal action, a TfL Spokesperson said: “We completely understand the call for answers on what happened and what lessons should be learned and continue to assist with the investigations.
“We continue to do all we can to offer support, including providing counselling and advising those affected to seek independent legal advice. Claims are being handled quickly and a number of interim payments have already been made.”
A spokesperson for First Group said that “The cause of the tragic incident has yet to be established and it is absolutely essential that we find out exactly what happened.”
They said they are “working closely with Transport for London and the authorities to continue providing assistance in any way possible to those who have been affected and to the ongoing investigations.”
An interim report released by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has previously ruled out track defects, or a malfunction of the tram’s braking system – adding that the driver did apply the brake after coming out of the tunnel but only enough to reduce the speed form 50mph to 43.5mph.
Investigators have said that the tram was driving at three times the speed limit.
However a full report will not be completed for many months.