A wheelchair bound woman was rescued by horrified onlookers when she got trapped under barriers at Hampden Park Level Crossing yesterday afternoon (Tuesday).
The barriers came down as the disabled woman was being pushed over the crossing and three tree surgeons quickly pulled her to safety.
The incident happened just days after the signal box was de-manned and demolished with all signalling at the busy crossing now being controlled from Three Bridges.
Witnesses say the disabled woman’s companion began pushing her across the crossing from Mountfield Road towards Brassey Parade when the barriers were up and the lights were not flashing.
When they were almost at the other side the barriers were lowered and the two women were trapped.
Quick thinking tree surgeons, Andrew Catt, his brother Stephen and son Michael were waiting at the crossing and when they saw what was happening, jumped out of their truck and pulled the woman and her companion to safety.
Andrew from A & S Catt Tree Surgeons in Hailsham, said, “We just didn’t have time to think, we just jumped out and pulled her round the barrier.
“We had to do something. The train was passing by on the other track closest to Mountfield Road but if it had been on the track closest to her, I dread to think what would have happened.”
Network Rail says it is investigating the incident.
Witness Gaynor Newman was also in the queuing traffic at the crossing and said, “I was just driving through Hampden Park, for the first time since the demolition of the signal box. When I arrived, the barriers were down and I was almost level with the charity shop.
“The barriers went up. The traffic moved on, and I found myself level with the butchers when forced to stop again, as the barriers went down, very quickly, trapping the legs of a lady being pushed in a wheelchair by an elderly companion, who could not cross at speed.
“Presumably, as there is no longer a man in a signal box controlling the gates, the barriers stayed down.
“It must have been terrifying for the ladies concerned. Fortunately two men in green sweatshirts jumped out of their truck and raced to their aid, forcing the barriers up a little and leaning onto the track to pull the ladies through.
“They were heroes, and should be congratulated. The whole incident could have ended so differently.”
Hampden Park Signal Box was demolished at the weekend as part of a multi million pound project to improve signalling across Sussex.
Hampden Park is one of the busiest crossings in Europe with up to 20 trains passing through at rush hour.