Family lucky to be alive after rail horror

The scene of the crash - the Showsholta train on its side just outside of Kimberely in South Africa, the train was heading for Cape Town.
The scene of the crash - the Showsholta train on its side just outside of Kimberely in South Africa, the train was heading for Cape Town.

“It was like being in a washing machine.”

Two couples have spoken of their holiday horror after their train travelling at 100mph crashed whilst they were sleeping.

From left Karen and Peter Turnbull and David and Sue Williams on the Showsholta train approx five hours before the crash.

From left Karen and Peter Turnbull and David and Sue Williams on the Showsholta train approx five hours before the crash.

Sue and David Williams and Karen and Peter Turnbull were ripped from their sleep when their train derailed on its way to Cape Town.

The holidaymakers said “they are lucky to be alive” as they crawled their way out of their cabin into the dust filled night.

Sisters Sue and Karen clung onto each other whilst their husbands on the top bunks scrambled for their lives as their carriage flipped and bounced off the track.

The Prasa train was heading for Cape Town from Johannesburg, in South Africa, but the 27-hour journey was cut short at midnight when it crashed leaving 60 people injured.

I managed to climb out of one of the windows and there was just this scene of devastation

Peter Turnbell

Sue and David, from Bare, and Karen and Peter, from Lancaster, all suffered minor injuries including dust inhalation and brusing.

David, 51, suffered a head injury after the force of the crash catapulted him towards the ceiling leaving him needing stitches. He said: “We felt lucky to be alive, it took a few seconds to realise what was going on.

“When it skidded with the dust it was really difficult to breathe. The four of us were in a sleeping cabin, it was like being in a washing machine, bed pieces and our things all over the place.”

Sue, 46, said “It made it worse because it was pitch black, it felt like ages until we got out but it must have only been about 30 minutes.”

The scene shortly after the crash in Kimberley, South Africa.

The scene shortly after the crash in Kimberley, South Africa.

Peter was in a deep sleep when the 16-coach Shosholoza passenger train came to a halt.

The 50-year-old said: “I was aware of a heck of a bang and then we just spun all around.

“After the dust settled we were thinking how are we going to get out?

“I managed to climb out of one of the windows and there was just this scene of devastation.

“Carriages were completely over and you could hear people calling out and power cables were knocked down.

“It was Susan’s birthday at about midnight so when we got off the train I said by 
the way, happy birthday, and we all had this hysterical laugh.”

The derailment occurred just 500 metres from a construction bridge just outside of Kimberley.

Around eight ambulances arrived on scene to tend to the injured.

David shared an ambulance with the driver and they arrived at Kimberley Provincial Hospital just after 1am on August 19.

The pair met up at the hospital and arrived at the Portswood Hotel in Cape Town some 15 hours later thanks to one local woman who offered a lift.

The train should have arrived in Cape Town at 3.30pm on August 19 but instead they arrived just after 8.30pm.

Sue said: “When we were walking through Cape Town with our bandages everyone came up to us and apologised.”

The couples, who have two children each, are due to fly back from Johansaburg on September 2.

Peter said: “It was quite an experience, something I never want to repeat.”