Stonehaven crash: Partner of conductor Donald Dinnie who died in crash says life 'turned upside down' and recalls long wait for news from crash site
The partner of the conductor who died in a fatal derailment has said her life has been “turned upside down” as a result of the crash.
Trish Ewen, 59, was the partner of conductor Donald Dinnie, 58, who was one of the three killed when the Glasgow-bound train from Aberdeen derailed when it hit a landslide near Stonehaven on August 12, 2020. The train had been turned back to Aberdeen as a result of heavy rain and landslips in the area.
Brett McCullough, the train’s driver, who was 45, and passenger Christopher Sutchbury, 62, also died in the crash. At the High Court in Aberdeen on Thursday, Network Rail pleaded guilty to health and safety failings over the incident.
Ms Ewen was Mr Dinnie’s partner for eight years and, in a statement after the prosecution, said they should have been planning their retirement. She said: “The last three years has completely turned my life upside down.
“Donald and I should be thinking about retiring together and planning the rest of our lives – instead he was taken and I’ve been left to exist alone.” She said the loss of her partner was “so incomprehensible that there’s no past experiences to draw on to ease any acceptance or recovery”.
Ms Ewen recalled the day Mr Dinnie died. She received a phone call while she was at work to say there had been a train accident.
Ms Ewen said: “I went to a family member’s house and we all sat around the television – we didn’t know what else to do. We all just sat there looking at the news footage seeing shots of ambulances and helicopters and fire engines.”
She said the family had not received a call to confirm if it had been Mr Dinnie’s train, but Ms Ewen said she knew in her gut that it was.
Ms Ewen added: “Despite this gut feeling, I still actually expected Donald to be fine – I told myself, ‘He is the conductor so he’ll be busy helping the passengers.’ “While later we heard the driver died and that’s when my stomach started turning and I feared the worst.
“I felt dizzy. Like the blood drained from my head. My hands and arms felt heavy and shaky and almost disconnected from the rest of my body. I was just in a daze.
“The day started like any other – Donald and I preparing breakfast, talking about our plans for that evening after work. I couldn’t understand how things went from that to this.
“I couldn’t understand how Donald was here, then gone. I couldn’t comprehend how our life together went from normal to over. Just like that.”
A 32-year-old woman who survived the crash has shared her memories of Mr Dinnie on the day.
She said she felt guilty about surviving when she thought of him, but that he was a “chatty and genuinely nice man” and that he made passengers feel safe.
She said: “I spoke with Donald that day about the possibility of the weather stopping us from making it to our destination. He made sure I had access to the train wi-fi, so I could notify my family of the delay.
“Donald spoke to me about his partner, even joking that the weather would mean he’d get to finish early and was excited to get home.
“He kept us all informed, thinking of other people the whole time and making sure we were all okay.
“When I learned he died I felt an overwhelming sadness.”
The loss of Mr Dinnie has been difficult for Ms Ewen to come to terms with.
She said: “You don’t know what to do, where to turn and there’s genuinely nothing to do but brace yourself for each new day without your loved one.
“It’s right there is criminal accountability for this totally avoidable incident that has affected so many people and families but I believe imposing a fine is counter-productive as it’s essentially the Government paying a fine to itself.
“I think any financial penalty would be better invested in improving the railways or making sure all the Rail Accident Investigation Bureau report recommendations are acted on.”