Chester pensioner, 88, intended to take own life when struck by train, say inquest jury

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Staff reporter (Chester Standard)

A WIDOWER struck by a train travelling at 60mph intended to take his own life, an inquest jury concluded.

David Ronald Davies, 88, had ventured onto the track near the level crossing at Lache Lane, Balderton, just yards from his home at about 5.40am on April 4 last year.

He had been grieving his wife Jean who died two years previously, having also lost his daughter aged 38 in 1993.

Evidence produced at Warrington Coroner's Court yesterday revealed Mr Davies had been referred to mental health services several times and reportedly said he would be “happy” to join his wife.

But his grandson, Daniel Hickman, as well as friend and neighbour Susan Blythin, said he had been coming to terms with his loss and was generally fit and well.

His GP, Dr Alexander Teng, also said there was nothing to indicate Mr Davies had been suffering with suicidal thoughts or severe depression before his death.

The retired HGV driver was even said to be anxious about dying.

In her testimony, train driver Louelle Kinsella said she had been behind the controls of the four-carriage, 5.30am service from Chester to Birmingham International on the morning of the collision.

It was “pitch black” with some mist, and the headlights on the train allowed visibility of 10 to 15ft, she said.

The train had passed through the Balderton crossing, which was lit by street lights, and she glanced down to check her speedometer which read 60mph – an appropriate speed for the track.

“I looked up from the speedometer and in a split second I saw a male stood on … the tracks ahead of the train,” she said.

“I immediately shut off the train’s power and activated the emergency brake. I had no time to sound the train’s horn as within two to three seconds the train struck the male.”

She said he had been wearing dark clothing and had his right arm extended out to the side.

“The male made no attempt to move and literally just stood there,” she added.

“My opinion is that his intentions were clear.”

The inqust heard Ms Kinsella had to take time off work to come to terms with her ordeal – the first fatality she had witnessed in her 13-year career.

Coroner Nicholas Rheinberg said: “It must be the absolute worst nightmare you can imagine for a train driver.

“There is someone standing on the track and no way one could avoid collision. I imagine time must stand still.”

Mr Hickman told the court he had been living with his grandfather, who was an early riser and regularly went outside to walk the dog in the nearby timber yard.

But he rarely, if ever, ventured over the railway crossing.

Neighbour Mrs Blythin also said she had not known Mr Davies to walk over the tracks.

“I knew him very well,” she said. “I thought he was starting to get over it [the death of his wife]. He used to come to my house every day, probably about twice a day. Every night we used to watch [TV quiz show] The Chase.”

She added: “He used to say he was fed up and wished he wasn’t here sometimes.

“He used to go on and on about being old but he was very, very fit.

“He was a fit, well man. There was nothing to be worried about.”

The court heard Mr Davies had good mobility, vision and hearing for a man of his age, but suffered a heart attack in 2014 and had mild emphysema, which caused breathing difficulties.

He also had type two diabetes and took prescription drugs, including an anti-depressant and sleeping aid called Mirtazapine, which causes drowsiness.

Dr Teng, of the City Walls Medical Centre in Chester, told the inquest Mr Davies was “immensely popular” among staff at the practice as he was always “cheerful and chatty”.

He was grieving for his wife, he said, and once mentioned that “if he goes he will be happy to go”.

Mr Davies was referred to the mental health team several times, most recently last February, and had anxiety about his health and about dying.

“There was nothing to suggest to me there were any suicidal or mental health concerns,” Dr Teng said.

The jury concluded Mr Davies died by suicide.

His cause of death was said to be multiple injuries.

See full story in the Chester Leader

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