Two Drogheda women caught up in last Sunday’s DART chaos on the approach to Bray have spoken about their traumatic ordeal.
Dorothy Dolly Murphy and Leanne Keogh, both from Drogheda, travelled to Dublin for what was supposed to be a fun day out, but turned into a nightmare on the tracks.
Dorothy Dolly, who travelled specifically for the Bray Air Display, said her son and niece, both 12, were particularly excited as her son is crazy about anything with an engine.
The night before the show, her partner hurt his back, but she decided to take the kids on her own so as not to disappoint them.
Hopping on the 12:40 train from Drogheda to Dublin, they arrived to Connolly Station an hour later.
"The station was packed. People were rushing to the train and it was difficult to get off. As a precaution, I told the kids to go straight to the railing if we got separated,” said Dorothy Dolly.
Similarly, Leanne Keogh who was travelling to Bray to collect her child from her parent’s house said she got on the train at 1.30pm from Clongriffin and was due in Bray at 2.30pm. Come 3.30pm, Leanne still had not reached Bray, but was instead at a standstill around the Shankhill area.
"The train was absolutely ram packed, it was ram packed before we even got to Connolly station,” added Leanne. “There was no room for anybody to get on, but people were still ramming themselves on. The train conductors on the platform were saying ‘there’s loads of room, everybody get on!’”
Boarding the next available train, Dorothy Dolly remembers a sign reading, ‘Room for 40 sitting and 40 standing’. However, the trio were pushed and squeezed onto the train, standing at the very end of the carriage.
As the Dart moved on from Connolly Station, more and more people entered the train.
“I was counting the stations down for the kids as it was very uncomfortable,” explained Dorothy Dolly. “It was taking longer than usual. The train was getting very hot. I had water and freezer ice packs in my bag but couldn't move enough to get them. There was no airflow even when the train was stopped with the doors open.
"The train stopped between Shankill and Bray, but I have no idea for how long as my phone was in my bag at my hip – one of my hands was pinned behind me holding the railing and my other arm was above my head fanning my son and a young woman that didn’t look okay.
“We were body to body – we could have caught scabies off each other, never mind Covid!”
"Come half three the train was boiling,” added Leanne, “everybody was screaming, what was going on? They popped out with an announcement saying that there would be a short delay and that we would be moving on in five minutes, so everyone was happy with that.
“Come quarter past four, we were still sitting there and the man came on again with an announcement saying it would be another hour and forty minutes – maybe – before we can move.”
Seeing people outside the window walking on the tracks sparked panic amongst people on the train, believing there might be a medical emergency. Up to this point, Dorothy Dolly remembers there being no communication from the driver on her train and the doors remained shut.
When the driver eventually spoke over the intercom, it was “garbled” and passenger’s were unable to understand what was said. What was coherent was that there was a “major incident on the line – do not embark.”
The driver continued to repeat these words and Dorothy, thinking the worst, wondered if it was a terrorist attack.
On both Dorothy Dolly’s and Leanne’s trains, the decision was made amongst the people to open the doors. Once open, there was no relief and no air flow until a few people disembarked the train.
"The drop to the track below was shoulder height onto rubble,” explained Dorothy Dolly. “Strangers were helping strangers. There was mass co-operation on the carriage. Anyone with drinks was sharing them, trying to give aid to each other.”
"It was an option to walk to Bray or walk back to Shankhill,” says Leanne. “We walked the tracks all the way back to Shankhill and there happened to be a lady that spotted us and opened her back garden and fences at the back of her house and let us in through her side entrance.
"We walked for miles through Shankhill and got buses. But every single bus was full. I think it was nearly six o’clock before we got to Bray. And we left our house in Drogheda at 12 o’clock that day.”
Irish Rail’s announcement that passengers were to blame for disembarking the DART, only added fuel to the fire for Dorothy Dolly.
"I’m very angry that Irish Rail blamed passengers for making the executive decision to save lives and get off the train,” exclaimed Dorothy Dolly. “I can't stress enough what danger we were in. Whoever opened the doors and helped everyone off are heroes.
"They should have conductors in the carriages stopping people from entering the train during peak times. We have no authority on the train. It was shocking and we aren’t the better of it.”
"For Irish Rail to say it was our fault when it wasn’t! If they had literally just communicated with us people wouldn't have gotten half as angry and aggressive as they did,” says Leanne. “We were on the train over an hour before we were told anything.
“I just think that Irish Rail need to be held accountable for it. If they knew the crowds that were going to be brought into Bray, they understood the capacity that the trains hold and yet they were still forcing people onto those trains.”