Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

The Day I Nearly Died

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

The Day I Nearly Died

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jamie Diffley

The car driver who caused the Selby Train Disaster, Gary Hart, has been freed from jail but others are still suffering. A Selby survivor and the widow of a victim tell Jamie Diffley how their lives changed

Wendy Keenan will never forget the day that changed her life.

On February 28, 2001, she was travelling to London with her boss for the last in a series of important meetings.

The night before she told husband Barry she didn't want to go. Their two children were at her mum's home and Wendy was enjoying TV. An early morning trip the next day meant an early night and Wendy wanted to stay up.

Wendy remembers standing at Newcastle's Central Station bleary-eyed. The GNER train was due to depart at 4.45am and she was early.

Wendy enjoyed the trips to London. The practice manager for Bondicar Medical Centre, in Blyth, bought herself a magazine and settled in carriage H for the journey.

The train never arrived in London. At 6am a Land Rover driven by Gary Hart left the M62 Motorway and ended up on the East Coast main line near Selby. Wendy's GNER express struck it at 6.13am. The train derailed but remained upright crossing over the tracks into the path of a 1,800-tonne coal train. Ten died in the collision and dozens were injured.

Hart was paroled from prison this month after serving half of his five-year sentence for causing death by dangerous driving. He is free to rebuild his life and try to put the horror behind him.

But people like Wendy will never recover.

More than three years on the memories are still fresh. Wendy still breaks down in tears when she talks about the carnage she saw and is a changed person.

The 35-year-old is protective of her two children, Amy and Andrew. This year she refused to allow her son, 12, to go on a school trip to France with his Wensleydale Middle School pals.

And she failed to successfully return to the job she cherished.

"I will never be the same again," Wendy said. "In a way I appreciate life more as I nearly died. But I want to be working and going out like I did before the crash. I'd like to be back to my normal self."

Wendy's normal self was a fun-loving mum and hard-working employee. She'd been at Bondicar for four years without a day's sick leave and was studying for a work-related diploma at Ashington College.

Today she is on disability allowance. She complains of pains in her back and has to have steroid injections in her head to stop headaches. Wendy returned to work almost a year later when her badly-shattered right-leg had healed but couldn't get back into the old ways. Although she had nearly completed the diploma, it fell by the wayside.

Her physical scars have all but healed but mentally they are still raw. She tries to hold back the tears when she tells of the moment she was lifted from the wreckage of the buffet car. …

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