Thirty years ago, a railway bridge near Llandeilo collapsed, plunging a passenger train into the River Towy and leaving four people dead.

Glanrhyd bridge had been partially washed away in the swollen river as what is remembered as biblical quantities of rain fell before the accident.

The driver was unaware.

Early on Monday, October 19, 1987 three passengers and three staff escaped the 5:27am Heart of Wales line train from Swansea to Shrewsbury, but the driver and three passengers drowned.

The first bare details that the Glanrhyd bridge, between Llandeilo and Llandovery, had collapsed and a train had plunged into the river came with the radio headlines later that morning.

Slowly, news arrived of casualties.

South Wales Guardian:

The first carriage had detached from the second and was launched down-river, submerging everyone inside.

Four of the train’s ten were trapped in the front carriage; driver Mr J M Churchill, an elderly married couple, and a teenage schoolboy.

Ammanford was left shocked by the deaths of Ben and Pat Evans, of Tir-y-dail Lane.

The couple were on their way to Birmingham to visit their daughter and grandchildren.

A Llandovery College schoolboy, Simon Penny, who had been going back to school from Swansea on the early train so as not to miss his first lesson, was also named among the deceased.

The 14-year-old had almost certainly stayed on the train to help others try to escape.

The train had headed first from Swansea to Llanelli, where its direction reversed - a crucial determining factor for the passengers who fell victim.

A stroke of luck saved some people their lives.

The survivors included two rail engineers who had been tasked with checking the track after reports of flooding and damage, former Guardian reporter Anne Angus, the guard, Ken Bailey, 68, of Llandeilo, and a Brazilian student.

South Wales Guardian:

Anne Angus recalled her experience at the time.

She was on he way to Manchester to publicise her book, Hedgerow, when there was a muffled bang.

“We plunged downward with a crash and I was thrown forward into the brown water.

“It swirled above my head and I fought my way to the surface before it subsided to waist height.”

Anne, who was 64 at the time of the accident, said she heard a faint call to ‘come back’ from the rear coach.

“Looking back up the sloping aisle, the rear coach seemed to be full of rapids,” she said.

After ten minutes or so spent wondering whether to wait for help or take a chance in the river, Anne heard a voice repeat instructions to go to the back of the train.

“It was not an easy journey.

“My footing kept giving way and floating seats impeded my movements.

“But somehow, by a combination of walking and swimming, I made it up to the point where the coaches were coupled and the carriageway narrowed.

“That last lurch upwards against the current was formidable.

“But helping hands from the guard and Ken Bailey, from Llandeilo, were waiting to haul me onto dry land.”

Anne said she was filled with a sense of thankfulness and an urgent desire to tell her family she was well and alive.

Then came the news which Anne said changed a frightening adventure into a deep tragedy.

“A workman who had been sitting with the driver described how he tried to help the couple from the front coach into the rear coach.

“Just as he had the woman in his grasp, the front coach reeled, uncoupled and sank.

“I realised then that it was a truly tragic day.”