'There was nothing he could have done' Stonehaven driver's wife defends husband

The grieving widow of the train driver killed in the Stonehaven derailment has hit out at claims that her ‘kind, gentle’ husband was to blame. 

Stephanie McCullough said her husband Brett, 45, ‘did everything by the book’ before the crash near Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, on August 12, in which three people died.

The train derailed when it hit a landslip formed after a night of heavy rainfall and had been travelling at 73mph, below the track’s speed limit, according to accident investigators.

Ms McCullough claimed black box evidence proved her husband had seen the landslip as he applied the emergency brakes, but that he was powerless to stop the tragedy.

In a Facebook post on Saturday morning, she wrote: ‘I can’t stand people implying that my beautiful kind husband was to blame. He did everything he was told to do.

‘I can assure you Brett loved his job and did everything by the book. Unfortunately coming round that corner there was nothing he could have done.

‘Please don’t assume if you don’t know how the railway works as it’s very different from driving a car. It’s extremely hurtful to think people are judging Brett when they have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.’

The train was held at Carmont for two hours and Brett was told he could proceed back north at up to 75mph, at which point the storm had passed, his widow added.

Ms McCullough’s post has been shared more than 14,000 times and was inundated with comments expressing their sympathies.

She continued: ‘I have three heartbroken children here who Brett adored. His family was his world and he cared so much about people. Nobody can say a bad word about my kind gentle husband.’

The crash also claimed the lives of conductor Donald Dinnie, 58, and Christopher Stuchbury, 62, a passenger.

It emerged last week that an inspectors’ report warned Network Rail about the increasing risk of flooding and landslips a month before the crash.

Some 1.4 inches of rain fell on Stonehaven over a 24-hour period around the crash, and a river had smashed through engineering works designed to strengthen flood defences.

Further tragedy may have been prevented by a quick-thinking off-duty conductor who walked a mile to get help using a signal box when no phone signal was available in the area.

The train’s speed at the time was revealed on Friday by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, which is looking into the decisions made by all those involved in the train’s movements as well as the management of earthworks and drainage in the area.

Separate probes are being carried out by the rail industry and the police respectively, with Network Rail looking at dozens of ‘higher-risk’ rail sections around the country similar to the crash site in Aberdeenshire.

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