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Family 'trapped like prisoners'

PUBLISHED: 16:21 30 December 2009 | UPDATED: 11:21 23 August 2010

TRAIN HELL: Passengers were left confused and anxious

TRAIN HELL: Passengers were left confused and anxious

A GRANDMOTHER claims her family, including an autistic six-year-old, were held like prisoners while trapped on a crippled Eurostar train. The plight of Mary, 62, and James Haselden, 63, and their seven relatives was revealed through a complaint to the

A GRANDMOTHER claims her family, including an autistic six-year-old, were held like "prisoners" while trapped on a crippled Eurostar train.

The plight of Mary, 62, and James Haselden, 63, and their seven relatives was revealed through a complaint to the companies Travel Care team this week.

Suffering from severe arthritis and travelling with her autistic grandson, Mrs Haselden, of Leigh Park Road, Gravesend, claims the "traumatic experience" lasting about nine hours endangered the lives of her family.

The group were returning from a £3,500 holiday in the French Euro Disney resort when they became trapped in the underwater tunnel behind a train crippled during the icy weather.

They endured hours without water in stifling conditions, then freezing temperatures, were locked in train with no seating without explanation and forced to either use a toilet overflowing with human waste or an empty carriage.

Since the mass disruption Eurostar has announced an independent inquiry will be held.

Mrs Haselden said: "The train stuck in the tunnel was stifling hot and with little air and lights that flickered on and off and eventually went off altogether leaving the train in darkness and with no air conditioning.

"The children were frightened and crying and were being stripped off and bathed in wet wipes to try and keep them call. We were told to control our breathing to conserve oxygen. It was terrifying at some points.

"I have severe arthritis to the legs and spine and my six-year-old grandson Jimmy Rousell has severe autism.

"Travelling with any disability is difficult enough without the added misery of the incompetence of the absent staff when things go wrong. Not only was there very little information given, but what was given was contradictory misleading and altogether inadequate.

"All I'm left thinking is I have saved all this money to take them to Disneyland and I ended up putting their lives in danger,"

The 62-year-old slammed the £150 "blanket" compensation offered to passengers saying the trip was a plagued from the start with seats double booked with passengers in Lille.

She saved to pay for the Christmas holiday to celebrate her last year at work, but ended up sitting for hours in the crippled train, before being evacuated down a tunnel to a rescue train only to be returned to Calais, having been told they were destined for Ashford.

"Trying to disembark a train in darkness through a tunnel with young children and belongings with little help was difficult enough. We hadn't expected it to be a car shuttle and neither did we expect to be held like prisoners without water or food for so long," she said.

Travelling with the couple was her son Matthew Haselden, 37, his wife Donna, 37, and five-year-old daughter Leila from Cliffe and her daughter Melissa Rousell, 39 her husband Lee, 38, their daughter Missy, 8 and son, Jimmy, 6 who suffers from autism.

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She added: "Both little girls won't sleep with the lights on now. It took three years of counselling to get Jimmy on a train but I can't think how he'll react if we try again. They have undone three years of work. They have no idea of the damage they have done."

"The train wasn't designed for passengers so it was filthy dirty, grease everywhere. They provided food and water but only in carriage 18 and we were in carriage three. By the time a crate of water came to use there was one small bottle to share between nine

"There was only one toilet and when they open the toilet on carriage three there was no running water so soon it was overflowing with urine and excrement."

Eventually the train reached the UK where it remained in Folkestone for several hours before boarding a third train and arriving in Ashford 15 and a half hours after leaving Paris.

Lesly Retallack, a spokesman for Eurostar said: "Eurostar is extremely sorry for the impact which the severe disruption over the weekend has had on all our travellers, including Mrs Haselden and her family. Mrs Haselden has done the right thing to have written to our Traveller Care team, and our team there will be in touch directly about her concerns."

ed.riley@archant.co.uk

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