Tributes to ‘amazing’ South Shields woman killed in Indian train crash

Joan Nichols, who died when a tourist train crashed in India.
Joan Nichols, who died when a tourist train crashed in India.

A tragic South Tyneside grandmother killed in an Indian train accident has been hailed as a selfless community stalwart.

Joan Nichols, from Marsden in South Shields, was travelling with her husband John, when the accident happened on Saturday.

Indian police and volunteers inspect the site of the train derailment in which Joan Nichols died.

Indian police and volunteers inspect the site of the train derailment in which Joan Nichols died.

The 71-year-old was killed, along with another British tourist when the train derailed between Kalka and Shimla.

Her two daughters and son have flown to India be with Mr Nichols, 72, who also suffered a knee injury, and arrived yesterday.

Former work colleagues have paid tribute to the popular gran-of-five.

Michael Thompson, manager of Trinity House Social Centre in Laygate, South Shields, had known Mrs Nichols for a decade.

He first met her when she volunteered with the Community Volunteer Service (CVS) and she helped out at Trinity House last year.

Mr Thompson said: “Joan was an amazing woman. She was so much fun to be around and she was always smiling.

“She had a wicked sense of humour and was so caring and passionate about volunteering. She’d share everything with everyone.

“We’re all devastated by what’s happened, it just doesn’t seem real at all.

Dawn Crutwell, a volunteer at the CVS, said: “Joan was such a lovely lady and friend, she was always full of fun and very sweet to everyone who she came across.

“I started working at the CVS in 2010 and Joan had been here helping out about three years before me.

“She is going to be such a big miss. We have all been left in shock by what’s happened, I didn’t believe it was true until her saw her picture.”

Mrs Nichols’ niece Andrea Davison, 48, who lives next door to her aunt and uncle, said: “My aunt was such a warm and loving person who just loved life and people loved to be around her.

“She was the linchpin of our family and we’re all in shock that this has happened. We adored her.”

The couple flew to India on Thursday, for what Ms Davison says was to be a 12 or 13-day “holiday of a lifetime.”

She added: “We first heard that an accident had happened on the Saturday. It’s just awful.”

Mrs Nichols, who was married to her husband for more than 50 years, was a dinner lady before she turned her hand to volunteering about 10 years ago.

The couple were travelling on a four-carriage tourist service chartered by York-based Great Rail Journeys.

Chief executive officer Peter Liney said 36 passengers and a tour manager were on the train.

He added: “In connection with the two passengers and our tour manager who have been hospitalised, we are glad to report that one passenger has now been discharged and is being looked after by our emergency response team.

“The other passenger and our tour manager remain in hospital under close supervision and the most recent bulletin indicated that they are in a stable condition.

“The majority of our passengers have now continued their tour. A small number of our customers have decided to travel home and we will facilitate this when they are ready.”

The tour, India’s Golden Triangle, left for India on September 10 and was due to finish on September 22.

The cause of the derailment is under investigation.