Hero train driver, nominated for award after level crossing collision, said he knew he would “never stop” train in time
- Credit: Archant
A train driver, who was hailed a hero for his actions after a train collided with a tractor at a level crossing, said he knew he would not have been able to stop from ploughing into the tractor.
Stuart Connell was driving the 12.03pm Norwich to Cambridge Abellio Greater Anglia service when it collided with a tractor and trailer on the Hockham Road level crossing near Thetford on April 10, 2016.
The train was travelling at 87mph when Mr Connell, who is from Mulbarton, saw the tractor pull onto the level crossing ahead of him.
With seconds to act, he ducked down and pulled the emergency brake before warning the 135 passengers.
Mr Connell kept his hand firmly down on the warning horn, even at the point of impact - which resulted in him sustaining a nasty injury to his hand.
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The tractor driver was seriously injured and four passengers suffered minor injuries.
Although he was injured and in shock, having avoided a derailment, he continued his duties and walked through the train to reassure and look after the 135 passengers.
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In an interview for Abellio the 49-year-old said: 'Basically I knew that he'd [the tractor driver] never stop in time and I wouldn't and I was going to impact so it was just a sort of knee jerk reaction, put the brake on, you have to sound the horn and get far away, which was by jumping onto the floor on the floor…
'It [his hand] was bleeding quite a lot at the time and the lady asked me if I was okay which I responded 'no' and she saw my hand and just took her scarf off and tied it round to sort of stem the bleeding.'
He added: 'I've had odd times where I have been perfectly alright and then I suddenly well up a bit and get a bit upset but if, as time obviously goes on, I tend to put things behind me and get on with it.'
His actions have led him to be nominated for Employee of the Year at the Abellio Achievement Awards, which highlight the individuals and teams from across Abellio's operating companies - comprising almost 13,000 employees - who deserve special recognition.
The ceremony will take place tonight.
Greater Anglia's managing director Jamie Burles said: 'Stuart demonstrated a unique ability to put others' safety before his own.
'He is a professional through and through and understands his responsibility as a driver is to ensure the safety of his passengers.
'His dedication to his role really shone through and he prides himself on doing his job to the best of his ability.'
One passenger, Tom Smith, wrote on Twitter: 'He did an excellent job to keep everyone safe.'
Another, Alex Youngs, said: 'The driver, conductor and a Network Rail guy who happened to be on board were going through the carriages and making sure everyone was ok.
'The driver and conductor were the heroes.'