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Horror delayed, replayed: when death brushed by me on the mid-morning Dart 

I stepped into the path of a fast train by accident and every night my mind flashes back to that awful instant


Writer Roslyn Dee and her dog Dudley

Writer Roslyn Dee and her dog Dudley

Writer Roslyn Dee and her dog Dudley

You don’t expect to have a near-death experience on a lovely July morning when you are just out walking your dog. You don’t actually ever imagine  one of those life-changes-in-an-instant moments will ever happen to you. 

The thing is, though, it can. It does.

I know  because a couple of weeks ago it happened to me.

Well, almost. I was lucky. I escaped with my life that morning by about five seconds. And those life-or-death seconds have stayed with me and  have taken me time to process, to try to properly grasp what nearly happened that day

It’s still there in the flashbacks  usually at night when I am drifting off to sleep.

Suddenly there it is again in my head. Two clear images — the colour green and blazing lights.

It’s disturbing on two levels. Obviously, in that I nearly lost my life; but secondly, that my stupidity — and there’s no other word for it — could have caused great trauma and injury for other innocent people.

At 10.20am on Friday, July 2, I was almost hit by a fast-moving train.

Here’s what happened.

I was walking my dog Dudley in Greystones, Co Wicklow, taking the long route to the harbour from my home, a specific route that I take three or four times every week.

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It takes me via the new park where the Darcy’s Field football pitches used to be, on past the stony north beach and then down through the new Marina Village until I reach the harbour.

Before the park and the beach, however, I have to cross the railway line. It’s gated on both sides and stop-and-go lights are prominently displayed for pedestrians. If the light is red, then, obviously, you have to stop. I have been checking those lights on my walks for years now.

I don’t know where my brain was on that Friday morning. I opened the gate on my side of the track and Dudley, on his extended lead, charged across the line to wait for me at the gate on the opposite side.

I have no recollection of even glancing at the warning lights. Why did I not look? I have no idea. Suddenly, though, as I stepped forward, I was aware of a loud noise.

I looked to my left and there it was — a thundering Dart train, like a threatening green monster, with all its lights blazing, and only seconds away. And the noise? The driver saw me and had his hand stuck to the horn.

In that instant I knew there were only two choices. One — step back, drop the long lead and risk the most likely outcome which would be Dudley running straight back to me, right into the path of the train. Two — run across the track myself and hope to make it in time.

I ran.

Once safely on the other side and, feeling bizarrely calm after the Dart had whooshed past me, I then heard shouting. It was a rail worker who happened to be nearby.

I won’t detail precisely what he screamed at me but the words “stupid” and “irresponsible” featured prominently. Had I not seen the red light? Had I not heard the train coming? Jesus, how did I not hear the horn?

He was angry and he was right. I said I was sorry, that what I had done by running across was stupid. He shook his head in disbelief.

I know now he must have been traumatised by the thought of the potential carnage he had almost witnessed. Meanwhile, I was feeling... grand, actually.

“You nearly died there,” I remember me saying to myself as Dudley scampered along beside me, oblivious to our close call. “But you didn’t die,” I self-rationalised. “You’re fine.”

And I genuinely thought I was...

That was until my sister happened to ring me half an hour later as I sat sipping a coffee on the bench in the park in the centre of the town.

 My voice began to shake when I heard her voice and once I had started to sob I found it difficult to stop. A few hours later, hearing a good friend’s voice on the phone, the same thing happened again.

I haven’t cried since but I haven’t stopped thinking about it. And I can’t get that train driver out of my head. 

I’ve tried to imagine the scene from his perspective — the terror of it. His utter helplessness. (I’m presuming, perhaps mistakenly, that the driver was a man.)

So I’d like to apologise to that driver, the one who was at the controls on what would have been the 10.16 from Bray to Greystones on July 2. I want to tell him I was stupid. That I recklessly put him and his passengers in danger. I want to let him know I am really sorry.

And I want to tell him, too, it taught me a lesson. About being far more careful when I cross any railway tracks; yes, that goes without saying.

But there’s a more universal lesson here too. For  never again will I believe those tragic life-changing moments only happen to other people; that random death — irrespective of where the fault lies — always strikes far from home. It doesn’t. It could happen to you.

On a sunny Friday morning ear lier   this month   it almost happened to me. 

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