Farmer dies after tractor hit by train at level crossing
A 64-year-old farmer was killed yesterday at an unmanned level crossing after his tractor was struck by a goods train.
Jack Hoban from Ballymacfrane, Donamon, Co Roscommon, described by a local priest as "everyone's friend", had been due to celebrate his 30th wedding anniversary today.
His wife Nora , a nurse at the Sacred Heart Hospital in Co Roscommon, was on her way to the Islands level crossing -- about eight miles from Roscommon town -- to offer assistance not knowing that it was her husband had been involved in the accident.
She was, however, blocked by gardai who had sealed off the area. Mr Hoban was pronounced dead at the scene.
Three separate investigations were initiated yesterday by the gardai, Irish Rail and the Railway Investigations Unit into the fatality which happened less than half a mile from Mr Hoban's home.
Gardai sources said the driver of the goods train, travelling on the Dublin to Westport line, had spotted an obstruction on the track and slammed on the emergency brakes in a desperate attempt to avoid Mr Hoban.
It is understood one theory under consideration is that the tractor may have stalled. Locals also said the farmer who had appeared in good health had been hospitalised earlier this year after developing problems with his foot.
Local priest Fr Francis Glennon, a good friend of Mr Hoban's, said he had been a gentle giant who was loved by everyone in the community. He added that neighbours and friends were baffled by the tragedy given that Mr Hoban had land on both sides of the track and would cross there a few times a day.
Neighbours said Mr Hoban had been moving bales on his land and was returning home at about 11.30am yesterday when the tragedy happened.
"He was coming back from his land and apparently stopped on the track which is very, very surprising," said Fr Glennon.
"He came across there two or three times a day and should have been able to see anything coming."
Local Fine Gael TD Denis Naughten yesterday urged Irish Rail to carry out a safety review at all unmanned level crossings in light of this latest tragedy.
Just last month a planning application for a bridge at this crossing was lodged with Roscommon County Council following a long campaign by locals.
Mr Naughten said that while Irish Rail had made a big effort to close down unmanned and non-automated crossings on the Galway line there was still a considerable number on the Westport line.
Irish Rail confirmed yesterday that the tragedy had happened at a 'user-operated' crossing where commuters are obliged to check for trains and to open and close the gates themselves.
Father Glennon said he understood that Mr Hoban had closed one gate behind him before the accident happened.
The couple have three adult children.
Irish Rail spokesman Barry Kenny said the safety record in this country compared very favourably with the situation in Europe and the US.