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How everyday heroes in Stonehaven shone on darkest day for community

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The inspirational locals who banded together in the wake of the Stonehaven rail disaster have been hailed as heroes as details of their efforts emerged.

In the immediate aftermath of the derailment, which left three people dead and six injured, well-deserved credit was paid to the emergency services and the railway workers who pulled together to deal with the emergency and help those affected.

But now a light has been shone on the rural residents who went out their way to help in smaller, but invaluable, ways.

Among them are worried locals who lined country roads to point the blue light crews in the right direction, farmers who cleared paths to ensure they could access the scene of the catastrophe and a man who spent five hours directing traffic to the right place.

They have been recognised as stations across the country prepare to fall silent for a minute at 9.43am tomorrow to remember train driver Brett McCullough, conductor Donald Dinnie and a passenger Christopher Stuchbury.

Train driver Brett McCullough, conductor Donald Dinnie and a passenger now named as Christopher Stuchbury, 62, died in the incident near Stonehaven. Pictured is the Carmont signal box

Residents who live near the crash site at Carmont, about four miles south of Stonehaven, were crucial in supporting the emergency services as first responders raced down a myriad of rural roads to reach the stretch of railway.

Initially, the large “boom” of the nearby train crash was mistaken for a clap of thunder during the stormy morning – but then thick plumes of smoke started to spread and people were spurred into action.

Soon, blue lights were speeding towards the area but a number of vehicles found themselves careering down a pot-hole ridden road towards a dead end, as they struggled to find the right spot.

A resident explained how locals quickly began to line the streets to direct crews to the crash site in an effort to help out in any way that they could.

One man stood at a nearby junction for five hours pointing people towards the scene.

Bill Howatson

Provost of Aberdeenshire, Bill Howatson, said the response in Carmont, and the wider Stonehaven area, had been “heart-warming” as he addressed those who lent a hand.

He said: “This response at such a tragic time demonstrates a very real community spirit for which I thank you all personally and for which you must all be applauded.”

Divisional commander chief superintendent George Macdonald thanked locals for assisting the police.

He added: “The help and support received from the local and business communities has been outstanding, as it always is when faced with difficult circumstances.

“Their support has been gratefully received by every responder involved.”

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has also commended the “farming family” that stepped up to the plate to assist in the wake of the crash.

Chris Taylor of Annamuick Farm was among the first on the scene and has been providing his field, near to the line, as a base for investigators.

Farmers even worked together to clear paths so that emergency services could better access the spot.

Emergency service at the scene of a derailed train near Stonehaven.<br />Picture by Kenny Elrick 13/08/2020

North-east regional manager for the NFU, Lorna Paterson, told the P&J: “Members of the farming community feel a sense of community and always do what they can.

“Farmers are humble by nature – but they can be heroes.

“They’ve shown this in the past with their help with flooding, storms and snow. They often have the equipment needed that can help.

“I’m incredibly proud of the farmers near Carmont.”

Police currently remain at the entrance to the crash site – where investigators continue to walk the lines to piece together the moments leading up to the derailment.

Today mist rolled over the hillside as locals still spoke in disbelief about the “tragic” incident seven days ago.

The nearby Carmont signal box has been adorned with tributes to the victims and it is expected that a large group will gather there tomorrow for the minute’s silence.

It is likely further questions will arise about the cause of the disaster.

Transport minister Michael Matheson stressed in Holyrood that it was “too early” to identify exact cause or the measures required to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.

He told the P&J: “We will gather at stations across the country to pay our respects and remember those who died.

Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson, addresses emergency workers at Police Scotland’s station in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, following the derailment of the ScotRail train which cost the lives of three people. PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 13, 2020.

“I would expect the regulator to now look very closely and urgently at what additional steps and measures Network Rail and others can take to prevent these events from taking place in future.

“Having visited the area last week to meet some of the emergency responders to discuss the extremely distressing situation they faced on the ground, I am full of gratitude and respect for their dedication and professionalism.”

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