A Sussex man described how he had to clamber over dead bodies as he fled from his desk on the 100th floor of the World Trade Centre seconds after a plane crashed into it.

Paul Neal, a 40 year-old transport consultant from Goring, was at his desk when the hijacked plane crashed into the side of the building just above his office.

As smoke from burning aviation fuel engulfed the floors above him, Mr Neal called his company's offices in Newark, just outside the city, to tell them what had happened.

None of the lifts in the 110-storey building were working so Mr Neal and his terrified colleagues started the long climb down the stairs to the basement where they hoped they would be safe.

Mr Neal, who had been working in New York since April, said he had to clamber over dead bodies which blocked the stairwells during his descent of the building, which took almost an hour.

He took shelter in the subway beneath the building, only for the nightmare to begin again as the building above began to collapse.

The huddled survivors heard a rumbling noise as the building began to break up and realised their only hope was to run for their lives.

The choking clouds of dust and debris made it almost impossible to see but somehow Mr Neal managed to get out alive.

Mr Neal's mother Brenda, 72, of Sunny Close, Goring, and sister Julia had last seen him just two days before when he returned to Sussex to watch a Brighton and Hove Albion match and show off photos of his new apartment in New York.

They found out via the Newark office he had survived the plane crash then faced an agonising wait before discovering whether he had escaped the collapse of the twin towers.

Miss Neal was at the TUC Congress in Brighton when the news broke. She said: "We were expecting Tony Blair to give a speech and were just settling down when the news must have flashed across television screens.

"I rushed out because I knew my mother would be very upset and very distressed."

"We waited so long before we heard very much at all. It was terrible. We knew how high up in the tower his office was and we really thought he was dead."

"We knew the building had collapsed but we could not get through and it was about three and a half hours before we knew he was safe.

"He got back to his apartment and tried to call us. We couldn't believe how lucky he had been and couldn't believe he got out.

Miss Neal said her brother left an answer phone message at her mother's house saying he was fine but very shaken.

The family's thoughts are turning to the thousands of other families whose loved ones may not have been so lucky.