Lancashire couple Peter and Pauline Lloyd were among those injured in the Indian rail crash last month, in which two tourists were killed.
AASMA DAY talks to Peter about how what was meant to be a long-awaited dream holiday turned into a nightmare
One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the magnificent Taj Mahal, is a symbol of eternal love as it was built by a Mughal emperor as a monument in memory of his beloved wife who died in childbirth.
Peter and Pauline Lloyd, who live in Ormskirk, have a true love story of their own as the couple first met as teenagers after becoming pen pals.
Pauline, now 68, who grew up in Burnley and was a pupil at Townley High School, sat on the same lunch table as a girl who was a member of Burnley Teenage Pen Pals Club and was writing to a boy from Liverpool.
As the Beatles and Liverpool were so popular, Pauline said she wanted a Liverpool boy to write to too and she and Peter struck up a letter writing friendship.
Peter, now 69, remembers: “We started a long session of letter writing and we met up when I was 15 and Pauline was 14. We then drifted apart and then met again when I was 17.
“Pauline and I share the same birthday on July 30 so I invited her to Liverpool for her birthday and took her to the original Cavern Club.
“I knew she was the one for me and I wasn’t going to let her get away again.
“We had a whirlwind romance and got married in Burnley when I was 20 and Pauline was 19.”
Peter and Pauline have now been married for 48 years and have three sons and two grandchildren.
Ever since Peter can remember, it has been Pauline’s dream to see the Taj Mahal in India and he was determined to fulfil his wife’s wish.
Peter, who used to have his own export freight and logistics business but has now retired, explains: “Ever since I have known her, it has been Pauline’s dream to see the Taj Mahal.
“It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is such an iconic building with a love story behind it, we promised ourselves we would go and see it one day.”
Peter and Pauline finally booked their dream holiday in October last year for this September and looked forward to the holiday in anticipation.
Little did they realise the horror that lay ahead, with the rail crash that occurred on just the second day of their holiday. The train derailment happened on India’s historic Kaila to Shimla line on September 12.
Two tourists died and nine others were injured during the incident on the chartered trip of India’s Golden Triangle, organised by York-based company Great Rail Journeys, which involved a journey on a railway line in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh.
Peter and Pauline had flown from London to Delhi for the start of their holiday and, after spending a night at a hotel in Delhi, they set off on a mainline train from Delhi to Kalka to board the Kalka to Shimla line which is a mountainous route known for its dramatic views of hills and surrounding villages.
The crash happened just minutes after they left the station as they went round the first curve and the train came off the rails.
Peter recalls: “It all happened so quickly. There was a screech and a grind and then the whole train stopped with a shudder.
“It tilted and I was catapulted across the carriage and a seat landed on top of me. For those few seconds, I genuinely thought: ‘This is it. This is the end of my life.’ I have never hyperventilated so much in my life as it was incredibly scary and we thought we were going to die.”
Peter’s shoulder was badly injured by the heavy seat that landed on him and he was in agony, but his only concern was for Pauline who was deeply traumatised by the accident and was inconsolable.
Peter says: “The train crashed and the carriage went completely off the rails and was in an embankment.
“If it hadn’t been for that embankment, the whole train would have gone over and there was a sheer drop just 500 metres down the track.
“We actually had to walk along to get back to civilisation. Pauline was so upset and was crying so much and I could not console her. I have never seen her like that before in my life. The trauma really affected her as we saw some horrendous sights that you would not imagine.
“We saw the fatalities being carried out. Two ladies who were in the front carriage had been thrown from the train and had completely gone through the window.
“One lady died instantly as a result of her injuries. Another lady died of a heart attack from the shock of the crash.
“Another woman was stuck under the train and had been scalped and was covered in blood. She spent a week in intensive care and thankfully pulled through.
“Our tour guide Andrew collapsed alongside the train and split his head open.
“There were 37 people in the party and as it was only the second day of the holiday, we hadn’t got to know them all yet. If it happened later in the holiday, we would have known them all.
“For about half-an-hour, we were on our own with no medical help until the doctors arrived as we were on a remote part of the track in a wooded area.”
The train passengers were taken back to the station and transported to emergency hotels. They then carried on back to Shimla by road the following day. However, some of the passengers chose to come home as the incident had affected them too deeply.
Peter and Pauline stayed at Shimla for three nights but then Pauline confessed she felt so traumatised that she could not stay out any longer.
The couple flew home on the first possible flight on Wednesday, September 16.
Peter says: “Pauline was deeply affected by the trauma and told me: ‘I can’t cope any longer. I want to go home.’”
Ruefully, Peter adds: “We were only two hours away from the Taj Mahal – but we never did get to see it.”
Peter says Pauline had counselling while she was out in India and is now having counselling at home. She is under the care of the doctor.
He explains: “Pauline is haunted by the terrible sights she saw and seeing the injured and dead people carried out.
“When Pauline saw me catapulted across the train, she feared for my life and she says she feels guilt because it was her who desperately wanted to go to India.
“Even though I have told her it is not her fault at all, she can’t shake off these feelings.
“It was just incredibly bad luck, but we were the lucky ones as we survived.”
Peter and Pauline are still affected deeply by the physical and psychological injuries from the rail crash.
Peter is suffering ongoing pain in his shoulder and now requires a sling and will be undergoing specialist hospital treatment in the coming weeks.
Peter, who is very fit and does a lot of exercise including long-distance cycling, swimming, walking and playing football, is convinced his injuries would have been a lot worse if he hadn’t been in peak physical condition.
Peter says: “After the incident, my shoulder was really painful but I was just so worried about Pauline.
“She was just completely traumatised and is still not right. We came home almost a week early, simply because we were in such a bad way.
“This was meant to be the holiday of a lifetime but it was disastrous.”
Peter is concerned after learning that there had been previous incidents on the same railway before their holiday – but says they were not made aware of this by the tour company.
He says: “We booked with Great Rail Journeys as it is a very established company.
“But when we booked, there was no mention of previous incidents of derailment on the tracks. We have since discovered there was a previous incidents in 2012.
“When we booked this holiday, we had a choice of booking this rail tour or going to a tiger reserve in India and missing out Shimla.
“If we had known the previous history of rail derailment, we would never have got on that train.”
Peter is still hopeful that one day he will make Pauline’s dream of seeing the Taj Mahal come true.
He says: “I would love to make Pauline’s dream of seeing the Taj Mahal come true and once all this is over, hopefully I will take her to India.
“But we will definitely not be going by train.”
• Two tourists died and nine others were injured in the Indian rail crash last month.
Specialist lawyers instructed by injured victims, left traumatised after the fatal train derailment, are calling for answers as to how the accident happened and for measures to be put in place to prevent further tragedies.
Peter and Pauline Lloyd have instructed personal injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate how the incident happened and assist them in ensuring they receive proper treatment and rehabilitation for their injuries.
Irwin Mitchell previously successfully represented a British woman seriously injured when she was thrown from a similar narrow-gauge train on the same railway line as it pulled away from a station in 2012.
Clive Garner, partner and head of Irwin Mitchell’s international personal injury team, says: “We have now heard first hand accounts of the terrible ordeal that those on board this journey experienced and are commencing investigations into how the incident happened.
“It is clear many questions remain regarding the factors which led to this derailment.
“Following our instruction, we are determined to ensure that our clients get the answers they deserve regarding how the incident happened.
“At the same time we will work to ensure that those we represent access ongoing support for the physical and psychological injuries which continue to impact their lives.
“It is also vital that lessons are learned from this incident and that the prospects of a similar incident occurring in the future are reduced.”
Peter says: “This incident should not have been allowed to happen and it is concerning to hear about the previous accident on the railway.
“I believe that the tour operators must meet their responsibility to ensure that the safety of their customers is paramount.”