Great Heck (near Selby): 2001 disaster remembered

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Adlington

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Information from eventbrite.co.uk:
LNER, together with Network Rail and Freightliner, is hosting a virtual memorial to commemorate the 20 year anniversary of the Great Heck train crash. This will be held from 10am on Sunday 28 February 2021.

On the afternoon of Sunday 28 February at 2pm, there will also be an online memorial service live-streamed from Selby Abbey, led by Canon John Weetman, Vicar of Selby Abbey and the Reverend Peter Hibbs. A commemorative candle will be lit for each of those
who lost their lives
The BBC has a long article about the crash, where relatives and others directly affected by the disaster share their memories of the accident:
"You know, there was a train crash this morning that involved dad's train. I've got to tell you that your daddy's dead, and you won't see him again."
Five hours before Mary Dunn found herself having to break the worst possible news to her sons, she had been awoken by the sound of sirens.
It was the morning of 28 February 2001. She switched on her television and saw the wreckage of a freight train lying on its side near the M62 outside Selby.
 
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Ianno87

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I remember seeing the first early news reports of "a train crash near Selby" coming through on BBC Breakfast before I went to school. Obviously, before the days of rolling news and mobiles it was only on getting home in the afternoon that the (almost implausible) severity of the accident became clear.

The local evening papers had picked it up by then and I still remember the "Billion to One Carnage" headline, with the pictures.
 

LSWR Cavalier

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Billion to one? There was a similar 'accident' almost exactly a year later

I think it is inappropriate to publish interviews with the driver who caused the crash
 

Vespa

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Billion to one? There was a similar 'accident' almost exactly a year later

I think it is inappropriate to publish interviews with the driver who caused the crash
Indeed I read the interview in a news article dating from 2011, he was deflecting blame from himself claiming it was "fate" to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, I disagree his action started a chain of events that caused the crash.

Driving when unfit to do so is not fate, its a choice, had he stayed in bed that day none of this would have happened.
 

yorksrob

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I was commuting at the time. Hatfield sticks in the mind more because there was a whiteboard by the escallater at Leeds station saying "were you on the xx:xx from Kings Cross" offering counselling.
 

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I was staying in a hotel in York on that morning on a training course whilst employed by Railtrack. There was considerable nervousness about the fact that it was reported that an ITN news team were going to be staying at the hotel and they could get to know that Railtrack employees were staying there. At this point of course no body knew what caused the crash and the course attendees were worried that there would be speculation that "Railtrack caused it" and we could face hassle from the reporting team. Railtrack were not highly regarded given the accidents that had already occurred.
 

Ianno87

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I was staying in a hotel in York on that morning on a training course whilst employed by Railtrack. There was considerable nervousness about the fact that it was reported that an ITN news team were going to be staying at the hotel and they could get to know that Railtrack employees were staying there. At this point of course no body knew what caused the crash and the course attendees were worried that there would be speculation that "Railtrack caused it" and we could face hassle from the reporting team. Railtrack were not highly regarded given the accidents that had already occurred.

"Luckily" (said very carefully), the direct cause of the accident became clear very quickly, and the usual media lines of "are railways safe?" died off very quickly.
 

55002

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I commuted on that train from Newark at the time into London every day, always had chat with the guard who died was a lovely chap, very sad. I remember seeing delayed on screen went to supervisor office said there was an issue with it at Heck, walked into the office and saw the tv screens full of the devastation.
 

DB

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Indeed I read the interview in a news article dating from 2011, he was deflecting blame from himself claiming it was "fate" to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, I disagree his action started a chain of events that caused the crash.

Driving when unfit to do so is not fate, its a choice, had he stayed in bed that day none of this would have happened.

Indeed, but while not defending him (I knew one of the passengers who died) it's something which people do every day, and the unfortunate sequence of events and circumstances is something which nobody could reasonably have predicted.
 

edwin_m

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Indeed, but while not defending him (I knew one of the passengers who died) it's something which people do every day, and the unfortunate sequence of events and circumstances is something which nobody could reasonably have predicted.
There are of course many more less serious accidents caused by people driving when not fit to do so, which don't get much publicity but almost certainly give rise to more casualties every year than Great Heck did.
 

Merle Haggard

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I watched ITN on the day, and the newsreader said that the land rover 'plunged off the road in atrocious conditions', over pictures of the crash in what I would describe as benign weather.

When the car's driver was asleep, it carried on in a line across the hard shoulder and along the embankment parallel to the road.
Just as the ITN news did, the BBC report linked exaggerates by saying that the land rover 'plummeted off the road'.
Both medial seemed to be trying to give the impression that the action of the land rover driver was not the cause of the 'accident' but it was overwhelming 'fate'.

Strange contrast with any other rail accident, when blame is apportioned to the industry instantly regardless of the facts...
 

D6130

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Just a quick reminder that today was the twentieth anniversary of the worst UK rail accident of the 21st century.

In the foggy early morning of Monday 28th February 2001, a Lincolnshire man fell asleep at the wheel of his Land Rover and trailer while driving along the M62 motorway and careered down the embankment next to the bridge over the ECML at the village of Great Heck, near Selby in North Yorkshire.

The vehicle and trailer came to rest across both lines and were almost immediately struck by the 04 45 Newcastle-Kings Cross GNER service, headed by DVT no. 82221, which was derailed into the path of an Immingham-Ferrybridge Freightliner Heavy Haul loaded coal train hauled by 66 521.

In the resulting carnage ten people died and 82 were injured.

The dead included Freightliner driver Steve Dunn, GNER Newcastle driver John Weddle, Senior Conductor Raymond Dobson, restaurant car chef Paul Taylor and six passengers.

By a strange coincidence, the GNER train was being propelled by 91 023, the same loco involved in the Hatfield derailment a few months earlier.

Acts of remembrance were held earlier today at the site of the accident and at Newcastle station, while a memorial service for those who lost their lives was held at Selby Abbey. RIP>
 

Tom Quinne

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James Dunn later became a driver with London Underground, and last I heard was a driver with South West Trains.

I seem to recall there where two drivers on 66521, Mr Dunn sadly couldn’t get off the loco before impact the other driver who was actually driving did.

Coming only 4 months after Hatfield, 16 after Ladbrove Grove it was an extremely horrific time for the industry.
 

Ianno87

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James Dunn later became a driver with London Underground, and last I heard was a driver with South West Trains.

I seem to recall there where two drivers on 66521, Mr Dunn sadly couldn’t get off the loco before impact the other driver who was actually driving did.

From Tweet yesterday...


I joined Freightliner in 05 & the memories were still strong. My then team leader was in the cab on that day & my then boss, stayed in the cab overnight until Steve’s body could be recovered. (So he wasn’t alone) You can’t put a price on the strength and loyalty of individuals.
 

ainsworth74

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I seem to recall there where two drivers on 66521, Mr Dunn sadly couldn’t get off the loco before impact the other driver who was actually driving did.

Are you sure about that? Mr Dunn was driving the train and an instructor, James Hill, was present in the cab with him. I was under the impression that Mr Hill's survival was somewhat remarkable as he was with the 66 when the impact occurred. Certainly I'd have thought, considering the closing speeds involved, that there was precious little time to realise what was happening and then actually jump from the 66 (plus HMRI noted that the cab layout was not conducive to evacuating the cab quickly in any event).
 

Tom Quinne

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Are you sure about that? Mr Dunn was driving the train and an instructor, James Hill, was present in the cab with him. I was under the impression that Mr Hill's survival was somewhat remarkable as he was with the 66 when the impact occurred. Certainly I'd have thought, considering the closing speeds involved, that there was precious little time to realise what was happening and then actually jump from the 66 (plus HMRI noted that the cab layout was not conducive to evacuating the cab quickly in any event).

It was 20 years ago so memory may be a little fuzzy, but yes the cab of a 66 is a right sod to get out of quickly.
 

GRALISTAIR

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I joined Freightliner in 05 & the memories were still strong. My then team leader was in the cab on that day & my then boss, stayed in the cab overnight until Steve’s body could be recovered. (So he wasn’t alone) You can’t put a price on the strength and loyalty of individuals.

Wow - I am tearing up a little right now. Just wow.
 

Bald Rick

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I remember vividly getting ‘the call’ about an hour after the incident.

I know several people who were on the train; fortuitously all survived, it is was a worrying few hours until I knew they were ok. Two were close colleagues, both of who were in first class. One of them was in hospital for a while, and remembers nothing other than a bang and then waking up injured in a field some distance from the line. Neither would talk in any detail about the experience for the rest of their careers, except on their views of Mr Hart.
 
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