Stonehaven train crash: Crew member ‘walked a mile’ along tracks to raise alarm
A crew member on the 6:38am train from Aberdeen to Glasgow that derailed near Stonehaven yesterday morning climbed out of the wreckage and “walked a mile” along the tracks to raise the alarm, it has emerged.
The employee, who has not been named, made it to the nearest signal box to alert controllers to the crash.
The line was then closed down by control with emergency crews dispatched to the remote spot when the train came off the tracks.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson praised the "dedication and courage" of the crew member and said he had been "humbled" by those involved in the response to the derailment.
Three people, including the train’s driver Brett McCullough, and its conductor Donald Dinnie, were killed in the crash when the train was hit by a landslide. A passenger, who has not been named, was also killed. Six other people were taken to hospital.
Mr Matheson, who was in Stonehaven this morning to meet with emergency crews who attended the scene yesterday, said: "My understanding is that the crew member left the train after the incident to advise that the incident had taken place.
"The crew member was able to go to the signal box which then allowed the National Control Centre to close the line.
"It just demonstrates the courage and the determination they had to try and deal with the incident as effectively as possible.
"I have already highlighted how I have been quite literally humbled in the way our emergency response team have dealt with this issue, which includes Network Rail engineers over the course of the last 24 hours.
"The absolutely outstanding actions of this member of staff just demonstrates this dedication."
Mr Matheson confirmed that 12 people were on the train at the time of the derailment.
The region endured heavy thunderstorms in the hours leading up to the crash, with officials estimating 79mm of rain falling in Stonehaven over 24 hours.
It is understood that the train initially switched from southbound to northbound tracks when it encountered water on the line, before being hit by the landslide.
At the instruction of the Lord Advocate this afternoon, Police Scotland have launched a joint investigation into the causes of the crash, alongside British Transport Police and the Office of Rail and Road.
A spokesperson for the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) said the investigation would run parallel to an independent probe being carried out by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB).
The spokesperson said: "Following the incident at Stonehaven yesterday, the Lord Advocate has instructed a joint investigation by Police Scotland, British Transport Police and the Office of Rail and Road.
"The investigation will be carried out under the direction of the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service. This investigation is in parallel to the independent safety investigation by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch."
Dozens of emergency service vehicles from across the region – including an air ambulance and British Transport Police (BTP) officers – were called to the scene at about 9.40am.
But the rail line, which runs along one of the steep sides of the valley through a thick wooded area with a river below, is not easy to access.
One local resident, who did not want to be named, spent his time on the roadside directing emergency workers on a safe route to the site of the crash.
“It’s an extremely difficult site to get to,” he explained, “Flooding has made it really hard to reach.”
This morning, Paul Stewart, Assistant Chief Officer at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, confirmed that four firefighters were injured during the massive emergency response to the incident.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Stewart said: “We deployed a number of crews to the train crash at Stonehaven, including some specialist teams around urban search and rescue and our line rescue teams in order to assist with accessing the scene.
“It was clearly a very difficult and hazardous scene yesterday, and it remains so,” he said.
“We did have the unfortunate event of four firefighters receiving minor injuries yesterday; two of which attended hospital for precautionary check ups, and two of which remained at the scene.”
“We take the safety of our crews very seriously indeed,” Mr Stewart insisted, but said the tough terrain and difficulty accessing the site of the crash were issues firefighters were “well able to manage and deal with.”
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