Work begins to find out what happened in fatal Aberdeenshire crash

A burnt-out passenger carriage lies vertically down a grassy embankment in rural Aberdeenshire.

Above it, workers in high-viz jackets and hard hats are taking notes as they investigate what led this passenger train to derail.

Thundering rain battered it as it sat waiting to return to Aberdeen on Wednesday morning.

Workers at crash site
Workers at crash site

It had set off from the city at 6.38am before soon having to halt just south of Stonehaven due to a landslip further down the line.

It began its return after two hours of waiting, then disaster struck.

The train derailed, with two carriages tumbling down the embankment and going up in flames, while another seemed to have been flipped upside down.

Train derailed at Stonehaven
Train derailed at Stonehaven

Grant Shapps MP told how he understood an off-duty conductor managed to get off a carriage and run to alert operators, while a member of the public raised the alarm having seen smoke billowing from the trees.

A massive multi-agency response was launched to get to the scene and rescue as many people as possible.

Nearby, a farmer’s field resembled a car park for ambulances.

It was later announced that three had died and six were injured.

Train derailed at Stonehaven
Train derailed at Stonehaven

The dead are driver Brett McCullough, 45, conductor Donald Dinnie, 58, and passenger Christopher Stuchbury, 62.

Casualties could have been much higher, but numbers on board were likely limited due to coronavirus restrictions and Aberdeen’s lockdown.

Tangled metal, debris from the landslide and a battered wheel-set surround the carriages still on the tracks, which themselves now hold burnt-out seats and flaking paint.

On Thursday, police remained at the scene to close off the roads and allow official investigations to be carried out – a process likely to take weeks.

Train derailed at Stonehaven
Train derailed at Stonehaven

TSSA leader, Manuel Cortes, said: “This is a tragic affair.

“Nobody should ever leave home to go to work and not return safely to their loved ones at the end of their shift.

“The railway truly is a family and my heart goes out to the relatives and friends of all those involved.

“Thankfully tragedies like these are rare.

“Our industry remains incredibly safe, the last fatal train crash took place in 2007.

“But it’s very important that we learn what lessons we can from each and every incident to make our railways safer.

“Our organisers and reps are working together to determine what we will ask our industry to consider as part of their investigation into this tragic incident.”