Retro 1991: Carnage on the tracks

DATELINE: JANUARY 1991

THE BIG STORY

A rush-hour train smashed into the buffers at a mainline station in London bringing death and injury to commuters.

One person was killed and 250 injured when the 7.58am train from Sevenoaks, Kent, failed to stop on its approach to platform three at Cannon Street Station.

Members of the emergency services spent hours rescuing passengers and saved the lives of many with serious injuries. British Rail said the train was 40 years old and was due to be replaced in two years.

The train, which was carrying 1,000 passengers, had been travelling at no more than 5mph when the brakes failed. The impact caused the sixth carriage to shunt on top of the fifth.

Passengers were flung about like rag dolls and some had to be cut out of the wreckage by firefighters.

Transport Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, who was in Scotland at the time of the crash, flew straight to the scene of the accident.

Dr Kenneth Hines, London unit co-ordinator of the British Association for Immediate Care (Basics), who was one of the first on the scene, said: "It was organised chaos. A large number of people with many injuries were removed rapidly. Most of the casualties had limb and compression injuries."

THE HEADLINES

A fire broke out in a room on the fifth floor of the Grand Theatre, Leeds, ruining wigs and costumes – an iron being left switched on was blamed. At the time, Opera North were using the building to stage Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte and Verdi's Attila.

Films on at the cinema included Vietnam buddy flick Air America, starring Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jnr as two madcap pilots, children's fantasy tale The Never Ending Story II, morbid thriller Flatliners, starring Keifer Sutherland as a man obsessed with discovering if there was life after death, Loose Canons, starring Gene Hackman and Dan Aykroyd, a story of two cops who team up to fight crime, and Total Recall, a sci-fi classic starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Martian who has his memory wiped.

Programmes on television included Rapido, presented by Antione de Caunes, a fast-paced rock-music show which took in fashion, film and design. Guests on Wednesday January 9 included ZZ Top and Bob Geldof; and Tonight With Jonathan Ross, which was on Channel 4 at the time.

Acid house parties were all the rage and took place in all kinds of places, including warehouses in Leeds. Some were raided by police and people arrested for the possession of amphetamine and cannabis.

Peter Cromie, 57, Yorkshire's first lung transplant patient, was expected to return to his home in Illingworth, Halifax within two weeks, doctors said. The former lorry driver said he felt 'champion'

Boxer Frank Bruno travelled from Nottingham, where he was appearing in panto, to open a new charity shop at Killingbeck Hospital. The shop was raising money for the Children's Heart Surgery Fund, which was set up in 1988.

THE GOSSIP

Princess Diana and the Duchess of York ended up in the limelight for all the wrong reasons after they said the annual royal get-together at Sandringham was total boredom and likened it to 'a hotel in Harrogate.' The jibe prompted a swift response from former royal chef and hotelier Colin Alderson, who ran the Sandringham Hotel, Harrogate, who said: "They are probably referring to the days when Harrogate was a spa town. The hotels are far from boring now."

Dennis Waterman, star of TV's Minder, was banned from driving for three years and fined 250 after being convicted of his second drink drive offence in four years. The 42-year-old actor appeared at Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire and gave a reading of 96 when breathalysed – the legal limit was 80 at the time.

THE WORLD

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to condemn Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

A fight and stampede at a pre-season exhibition match between South African football teams Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates in the town of Orkney near Johannesburg, South Africa left 42 dead.

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein threatened to start a new world war if Western nations attacked his country. It followed his country's seizure of Kuwait, which used to be part of Iraq, in August the previous year. On January 15, the United Nations deadline for the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from occupied Kuwait expired, preparing the way for the start of Operation Desert Storm. The air attack began on January 16, SCUD missiles landed in Israel and the ill-fated SAS team Bravo Two Zero were deployed on January 20. On January 26, Saddam created the world's worst oil slick after he opened oil wells in Kuwait and let them spill into the Arabian Gulf.

AND FINALLY...

Bathers took part in the third annual Cold Water Splash at Otley, a tradition still going strong today. However, the water was so bracing that only two members of Aireborough Life Saving Club took the plunge, compared to 20 the previous year – they were Clifford Cawthorne and Ronald Thornton, both of whom were handed piping hot mulled wine after their icy dip, which raised money for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.