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The 06:54 from Stonehaven: Analysis, investigation and how a community pulled together in the face of tragedy

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Wednesday, August 12, 2020, is a date that will forever stay in the hearts and minds of north-east residents.

It was a day five months into the Covid-19 lockdown, a day of powerful electrical storms and, ultimately, a day of tragedy when three families lost loved ones in the Stonehaven rail crash.

Brett McCullough, Christopher Stuchbury and Donald Dinnie

With the co-operation of those closest to this tragedy, we bring you a series of reports looking at the human impact of the crash, the circumstances that led to the incident, and hail those who responded so magnificently in the hours, days and weeks which followed.

Our Impact investigations reporters have spent weeks carefully compiling these special reports titled The 06:54 from Stonehaven.

We have pieced together a detailed timeline of events that examines the key moments and decisions taken in that fateful journey along the Aberdeen to Dundee line.

We have investigated the role of the extreme weather, which swept across the country that day, as well as the impact of climate change on our railway systems and how it brings an increasing risk of landslips.

Our team has spoken to a panel of some of the UK’s leading rail experts, and to leaders of three rail unions, who provided analysis of the derailment, described the brave acts of those at the scene – and outline what must change in the future.

Most importantly though, we spoke to those whose lives have been devastated by the tragedy – those who have lost husbands and brothers, fathers and friends.

As part of these special reports, the families of driver Brett McCullough and conductor Donald Dinnie agreed to talk to our reporter Dale Haslam about the wonderful people who died that day.

Brett’s wife Stephanie spoke with great strength and dignity about Brett’s close bond with her and his three children, while Christina Dinnie described how much of a committed father Donald was to she, and her sister Nicole.

A keen photographer, Donald took a picture of the Aberdeenshire countryside just 18 minutes before the crash and his family have given us permission to share it as part of our reports.

We also pay tribute to the passenger who died, Christopher Stuchbury, who gave up his time to help care for people with terminal illnesses.

The Impact reporters also reveal Christina Dinnie’s efforts to raise more than £8,000 for a charity that helped her father at the crash scene.

We also report upon the ways people have rallied round to raise more than £140,000 for good causes in honour of those who died.

Among our reports, the UK Government’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told of his desire to meet the loved ones of those who died and we also looked at the position of Network Rail, ScotRail and investigatory bodies such as the Rail Accident Investigation Branch.

Our team also examined rail safety, such as past crashes, bridge maintenance and landslips – and we assessed what developments we can expect in the coming months as crash investigators continue their work.

The 06:54 from Stonehaven: The full series

The Impact team

  • Articles by Dale Haslam and Philippa Gerrard
  • Design by Cheryl Livingstone
  • Graphics by Lesley-Anne Kelly, Roddie Reid and Mhorvan Park
  • Videos by Drew Farrell, Kim Cessford, Mhairi Edwards and David Bradley
  • Drone footage and images by Kenny Elrick