A DUBLIN train driver has been hailed as a hero after his quick thinking prevented Ireland's worst ever rail disaster in Malahide on Friday evening.
Keith Farrelly 'thought he was seeing things' as he noticed signs of subsidence on the track, while crossing the viaduct over the Broadmeadow estuary at around 6.25pm.
He immediately stopped his train at Malahide station and alerted Irish Rail, who suspended services on the northern line.
'The first inkling I had that something was wrong was when I noticed water splashing up to a high level,' Mr Farrelly recalled.
'In that location, it's not a normal thing to happen, so I looked at the northbound line and saw that the viaduct was giving way and that the track was hanging. ' The Dundalk train had just gone over the bridge it was a very close call. I saw the bridge start to collapse as I was going over it. It was a scary situation, surreal.
'I was just relieved that we got past. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, the waves were coming up over the side of it, I thought I was seeing things.' The 33-year-old said he could feel the ballast moving on the line beneath his train, adding his 'defensive driving training' had kicked in.
'I decided to coast the train in, lightly braking, so I didn't put pressure on the track, and ensured we had momentum to get us safely to the station.
' When I arrived at Malahide Station I protected both lines and alerted control. It was such an unreal sight, I started thinking to myself 'did I really see that?'
'But when I walked back, I saw it clearly, and my legs just went to jelly with the shock. I'm just glad that all of us on board walked away from it safely.' Iarnród Éireann spokesperson, Barry Kenny, said different sections of railway tracks were walked three 'times a week', with a major structural inspection every two years, while the viaduct in question had been inspected last Tuesday.
The rail accident investigation unit of the Department of Transport is carrying out an inquiry, alongside an Irish Rail investigation.