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CTRL fire probe focuses on maintenance train

NEWS - Inspectors look at mechanical failure after two men die in tunnel blaze

INSPECTORS investigating the cause of a fire that killed two construction workers on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link last week have narrowed their probe to a mechanical failure on the maintenance locomotive.

A blaze broke out on the train 1.2 km into the 3 km Thames tunnel between Swanscombe, Kent, and Thurrock in Essex. The new line is being built from Gravesend to St Pancras.

More that 20 fire crews and extra firefighters from Essex attended the scene on Tuesday night. The two workers were the only people in the tunnel when the fire broke out, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

A train shunter who died at the scene will not be named until an inquest is opened into the case. He was employed by labour supplier Walesbased Line Management Services.

Engine driver Douglas Lynch, 50, from Folkestone in Kent, suffered 90 per cent burns and died on Saturday at Broomfield Burns Unit in Chelmsford, Essex.

Mr Lynch was employed by ETI and subcontracted to ACT, a joint venture that includes Carillion, Alstom and Travaux Sud Ouest, on contract 576. ACT won the deal to carry out track and catenary system work on section two of the rail link in August 2002.

The locomotive was south-east bound ? pulling several f latbed wagons carrying cable drums from a laying job at St Pancras to Swanscombe ? when the incident happened.

Kent Police's major incident team opened the investigation into the fire and HM Rail Inspectorate ? the rail arm of the Health and Safety Executive ? is now leading the probe.

The family of Mr Lynch, who it is understood prevented a collision by bringing the blazing locomotive to a stop, described him as a hero.

The family said: 'We understand Dougie brought his locomotive to a stop while it was engulfed in fire, preventing it colliding or causing catastrophic damage anywhere else in the tunnel.' His wife Denise said: 'You will not find a more health and safety conscious man, which is why I find it so hard to believe that I have lost my husband.

'My sons have lost their father and my grandchildren have lost their grandfather.'' The locomotive and its wagons were taken by road to be examined at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Buxton on Monday.

CTRL said: 'Our thoughts are with those who knew both victims, especially their families. '