Former train driver recalls trauma of witnessing 8 rail suicides, including a young man who smiled and waved
Dave Goodwin, a 63-year-old hailing from Plymouth, Devon, revealed that he is still haunted by gruesome images of dismembered body parts strewn across railway tracks
WARNING: DISTRESSING CONTENT
A former train driver has shared that he has turned to alcohol and suffers from insomnia after he was involved in at least eight rail related suicides, including one of a man who smiled and waved before he was struck down by the train.
Dave Goodwin, a 63-year-old hailing from Plymouth, Devon, revealed that he is still haunted by gruesome images of dismembered body parts strewn across railway tracks after he witnessed many rail suicides during his career as a train driver. Following his father's footsteps, Goodwin began working at the railways in 1974 and was determined to make his father proud. However, four decades later, his experiences have left him a "broken man".
Over the span of his 23-year-long career, Goodwin witnessed and was involved in eight suicides and each of these incidents have left a deep impression on him. Goodwin now suffers from major PTSD and cannot sleep in the dark. He also constantly has flashbacks which caused him to drink around 10 pints and smoke as many as 60 cigarettes on a very bad day in the hope of numbing the pain and horror.
Goodwin decided to share his story as part of Mental Health Awareness Day hoping that other train drivers will also seek out help and support. He is also encouraging and urging anyone who is contemplating suicide to speak up and ask for help.
Goodwin recalls that his first suicide occurred while he was working as a driver in Manchester during the late 1980s when a man stepped onto the tracks. He still remembered the name of the man and also the cries of his relatives in the coroner's courtroom. As reported by DailyMail, Goodwin shared, "At 20-something years old, he took his life right in front of me and he used me to do it."
"I saw this lad hanging out in the bushes, I slowed my train down as the signal was on red, and the signal changed and I started to move into the platform. All of a sudden he came out like a spring. I saw his fingers open up and I thought 'what the bloody hell is he doing?' All of a sudden he just appeared out in front of me. I just lost him because of the bushes and he just comes out in front and he was waving and smiling at me. He wouldn't move, he just wouldn't move," Goodwin continued.
He recalled how he immediately pulled down the safety lever which drivers refer to as "the dead man" and braced himself. He placed his fingers in his ears as tight as possible and also looked down in order to avoid seeing the impact of the accident. Unfortunately, he pulled his fingers out of his ears too fast and heard a sound which would haunt him for decades.
"I felt as if somebody had poured a load of water all over me, I was really drenched, soaking wet," he shared. Once he returned to the station, he was told that he would have to continue driving since there was no relief driver available. A manager from the station informed Goodwin that the young man had survived and was going to be charged with trespassing, but the very next morning two police officers arrived at his home.
"This was the first suicide. I still remember the officers saying 'about that lad you ran over last night on the train, he died'. It stays with you and it will stay with me forever," Goodwin shared. He carried on driving trains for another nine years and it was during that time that he witnessed seven other incidents.
In 1997, Goodwin was advised to leave his career for his mental health issues after he stepped on human remains while he was getting out of the train. Goodwin has been on anti-depressants ever since and revealed that these incidents tore his family apart.
"It's a shame for the driver, it's a shame for his family. If he's got kids, his kids will see the difference in him, his wife will. When you're married like I was - I'm divorced now - it's a big impact on your family, on the train driver's family. It doesn't just affect the driver. It alters your attitude, your behavior. It's frightening and you don't know what is happening to yourself," he shared.
"It can cause a lot of rows, they don't know what is going on with you until you see a doctor. Then you get told that you've got severe chronic PTSD, and that makes you feel terrible all because someone was selfish doing that - they shouldn't do it. I know that times are desperate, desperate people do that, but there is help out there, please talk to someone," he continued.
Another incident that sticks with Goodwin is: "I remember once, I was bringing the last train into Altrincham and it was dark, and I saw the silhouette of a person and I could see him with his shoulders hunched up. I slammed my breaks on, I shouted 'are you trying to kill yourself, you daft bleeding idiot?'. I reported that and I believed that he got picked up and put away for 48-hours under mental health. They released him and when I came back to work after a couple days sick, I was bringing the first train back to Altrincham. I found his body. He was still dressed the same, but he had no head. It was horrible."
Goodwin added that he could not help but feel guilty about the incidents on the tracks and shared, "It's relieving when the coroner turns around and says to you 'no blame on the driver'. The first lad they found a note in his back pocket, and he did intend to take his own life. It was just a relief to hear the coroner say 'no blame on the driver. When somebody steps out in front of you, you can't stop it, when you're driving at 125mph, it takes around a mile to stop. It's something I've got to live with, there's guilt there."
"The point is, they use trains and they don't give a damn about the driver at the front and what it does to them. They're using that train as an instrument to kill themselves, it's so wrong. That poor driver is going to work and he wants to do his job and he wants to come home like the way he left in the morning. Come home and be happy. He doesn't want to come down dull, morbid, upset. He doesn't want any of that," he continued.
"I did think that they're selfish, but it's not fair - it's someone who is in desperate need, and they are desperate people. The help is out there, it is there for you. Go and talk to a GP they'll put you in touch with a counselor. It's not stupid to say, if you've got bad thoughts and you're thinking of ending your life, there's someone there to talk to, think of your families, what it does to the driver. Life is precious, you've only got one life and you've got to live it. Don't mess with trains," Goodwin concluded.