‘Should’ve been in crushed seat’


THEY may only catch up once a year at the January 18 memorial service but Bev Roberts, Paul Touzell and Robert Garner have been friends for decades and are now among the last 12 survivors of the 1977 Granville Train Disaster.
The trio were among the many who gathered last Thursday, 47 years on, for the annual service to remember all those who lost their lives as well as their families, those who survived, and the men and women who risked their own lives to save others, ensuring that the memory of this day lives on.
Sharing horrific memories, all three were in their 20s and one the way to work when the unthinkable happened.
A train carrying 400 passengers derailed and ran into the Bold Street bridge which then collapsed onto the carriages – 84 people died and 200 were injured.
Bev was sitting at the back of the fourth carriage and felt the train surge before being pushed onto the seat in front.
Then the bridge came down and the debris in the carriage was so bad, Bev feared she’d be electrocuted.
“The first carriage opened up like a sardine can,” she said.
“The second carriage seemed ok but the third and fourth carriages were crushed.”
Bev said a man with red hair helped her off the train, before she fainted and when she awoke he was gone.
“I think he was my guardian angel,” she said.
Now a great grandfather of seven, Robert moved at the last minute from his regular carriage three to two as it was hot and he wanted a seat.
“As soon as I sat down, the train derailed,” he said.
“It was horrible; I saw the bridge wildly gyrating before it collapsed.
“I jumped out as soon as I could.
“I still count my blessings but certainly have survivor guilt.”
Paul and wife Noeline usually sat in carriage three with his brother but decided to sit in carriage four when his brother didn’t show.
“I went to sit down and a girl seemed distressed as it was probably her regular seat so we moved down the carriage near the window,” he said.
“I felt everything start to shake and stood up to see the bridge coming down.
“I was stabbed in the leg with a piece of timber and also got broken toes.”
Paul said his wife ended up safely in the middle of the aisle and up until when she died years later, always said it was her guardian angel who protected her.
“We were so lucky, there were people dying in front, including the girl, and behind us,” he said.
“I still struggle stopping under a bridge, for example, the memories flood back; they’re always with you.”