‘You try and blame yourself’: Greater Anglia train driver describes witnessing four deaths on the tracks
PUBLISHED: 15:27 07 December 2018 | UPDATED: 15:14 08 December 2018
A train driver who has seen four people die while he was at the controls has described the lasting effect it has had on his life.
Andy McNaugher of Norwich has been a train driver for Greater Anglia since 1998. The 47-year-old glows as he recalls his day to day role, and describes the pride he feels of transporting thousands of commuters safely to their destination.
But one aspect of the job has left him battling with PTSD, plagued with flashbacks, anxiety, depression, and his stresses have become so severe he needs to carry a Rubik’s cube in his pocket as a distraction.
During his 20-year service, Mr McNaugher has encountered four deaths on the tracks.
“The first fatality on the tracks wasn’t a suicide, it was in London and someone ran onto the tracks.
“They ran in front of one train, dodged that and ended up in front of mine, I saw it happen and heard the thud,” Mr McNaugher said.
“That first one was difficult, I had a month straight off work as well as counselling,” he said.
After witnessing a fatality, the driver isn’t put straight on to their duties, they sit on the train and go past the point where the person died with a support person.
“You try and blame yourself. I have only recently resigned myself to the fact that there is nothing I could have done even though I was in charge of the train and I had all that control,” he said.
“I had to go to the inquest and he had two young children about the same age as my kids. It is hard to believe those kids would be around 20-years-old now,” he said.
“At the inquest the family can ask questions and they were asking me a lot of questions about what happened and what I had done. I just felt so sorry for the family.
“The next time I went past the place where he died, there was a big bunch of flowers and two little pink bunches from his two daughters. They would have been around the age of five at the time,” he said.
In 2016 and 2017, fatalities on the tracks were attributed to causes including trespassing on the tracks, suicide or suspected suicide, and incidents on a level crossing.
Out of more than 100 employees on the Greater Anglia train line, Mr McNaugher has witnessed the most deaths on the tracks.
“The last three fatalities on the tracks have been on the same date, of the same month, which is the date of my birthday,” he said.
The following three Mr McNaugher witnessed were suicides.
While the first death was in a densely populated area in the inner city, the following was in the middle of nowhere.
Driving at 100 miles per hour Mr McNaugher locked eyes on a person by the tracks.
“The person looked up at me and I put the train into the emergency brakes,” he said.
“The body hit the train and I felt the vibrations up my legs and I thought ‘Oh my god it happened again’.”
“First it is the visual, you see them by the tracks, the audio, where you hear the thud, and then there is the emotions of when it happened.”
Since he witnessed his first fatality, the seasoned train driver thinks of those killed and the family they left behind.
“You have to stop yourself looking them up on Facebook and writing them a message,” he said.
Rail staff have been taught to use everyday questions such as “What train are you going to get?”, “Do you need anything?” or simply, “Are you okay?” to stop suicides on the tracks.
In 2016/17, there were 276 fatalities on the tracks in the UK, 86pc of those were determined to be suicides, the Department of Transport said.
After witnessing four deaths, Mr McNaugher constantly scans the tracks and platforms to make sure no one will jump.
He said: “Even though I have PTSD, I still carry on. I could dwell on the fact I have seen four fatalities but I just love driving trains.”