A train conductor’s partner has described the heart-wrenching moment she discovered her soulmate had been involved in the Stonehaven rail crash.
Trish Ewan has spoken of her ordeal three years after the tragedy after Network Rail appeared in court and admitted a catalogue of failures that caused the crash.
Donald Dinnie was among three people who died in the Stonehaven derailment on August 12.
He lost his life three days before his 59th birthday.
The smiling conductor always brightening people’s day
Donald was born in Torphins and lived in Westhill, having attended Ferryhill Primary School and Harlaw Academy.
He had previously worked on the family farm, Littletown Farm in Sauchen, near Inverurie, and at the former family chip shop, Crossroads on Crown Street, Aberdeen, before becoming a conductor.
Passengers and Donald’s colleagues would rave on about how chatty and smiley he was – and how he loved to pass through the carriages and have a laugh and a joke, brightening up people’s day.
Donald got together with Trish in 2012 and the pair were devoted to each other.
‘I got a call at work to say there was an accident’
Speaking of her recollection of the day of the crash, Trish, 59, said: “The last three years have completely turned my life upside down.
“I got a phone call while I was at work to say there was a train accident and I went to a family member’s house and we all sat around the television – we didn’t know what else to do.
“We all just sat there looking at the news footage seeing shots of ambulances and helicopters and fire engines.
“No one had called us so we still had no confirmation if it was Donald’s train – but I knew in my gut it was.
‘My stomach started turning’
“Despite this gut feeling I still actually expected Donald to be fine – I told myself ‘He is the conductor so he’ll be busy helping the passengers’.”
While Trish, a former store worker, was hopeful at that point, she then received awful news.
Trish added: “A while later, we heard the driver died and that’s when my stomach started turning and I feared the worst.
“I felt dizzy. Like the blood drained from my head.
“My hands and arms felt heavy and shaky and almost disconnected from the rest of my body. I was just in a daze.”
The worst part, Trish said, was experiencing how the day had gone from normal to tragic.
She said: “The day started like any other – Donald and I preparing breakfast, talking about our plans for that evening after work.
‘Our life went from normal to over. Just like that’
“I couldn’t understand how things went from that to this.
“I couldn’t understand how Donald was here then gone.
“I couldn’t comprehend how our life together went from normal to over. Just like that.
“Donald and I should be thinking about retiring together and planning the rest of our lives – instead he was taken and I’ve been left to exist alone.
“Life throws challenges at us all but something like this is so incomprehensible that there’s no past experiences to draw on to ease any acceptance or recovery.
“You don’t know what to do, where to turn and there’s genuinely nothing to do but brace yourself for each new day without your loved one.”
Donald had worked in the railway for 37 years.
Hundreds of people lined the streets of Westhill on August 27 as Donald’s cortege passed by on the day of his funeral.
Donald’s biggest love was his family
Some in attendance wore blue Scotrail jumpers, jackets and uniforms to pay tribute to their beloved colleague.
Donald was a member at Nigg Bay Golf Club, an avid photographer who loved to go on nature walks and a volunteer at Westhill District Amateur Swimming Club.
But his greatest love was reserved for his family – partner Trish and daughters Christina, 32, and Nicole, 28.
‘We would do anything to have him back’
Previously, Christina told us: “Dad truly was one of a kind and will never be forgotten.
“We would do anything to have him back and tell him one more time how much we all love him and miss him.”
Christina was speaking in an exclusive interview as part of our detailed investigation into the tragedy, which also includes expert accounts on what went wrong and how a clever phone app helped save lives that day.
Read it here.