‘One lady jumped clear. The other lady didn’t’: Sligo inquest hears train driver’s recollection of fatal incident

Coroner records narrative verdict in relation to death of Jessica McLoughlin (40), of Rusheen Ard, Caltragh, on tracks near Ballisodare last June

A train driver blew the horn and applied the emergency brakes after seeing two women walking towards him “in the middle of the track” near Ballisodare, Co Sligo, last summer, an inquest has heard.

Padraig O’Gara on Monday gave evidence at a coroner’s hearing into the death of Jessica McLoughlin (40), of Rusheen Ard, Caltragh, who was fatally injured when she and her niece, Rebecca Leydon, were struck by a Dublin to Sligo train on June 14th last.

In a statement, Ms Leydon (26) said she and Ms McLoughlin caught a train in Sligo at about 1pm that day as they were going to Dublin for a day out. She said they had a few drinks and got off in Collooney “because I left my phone in the shop in Sligo”.

“I feel guilty about it”, she said, adding that they were walking back to Sligo on the tracks and “didn’t realise there was a train due”.


Ms Leydon said they heard the train horn and “when I looked I didn’t think it was going to hit us, but it was the steps that hit us”. She said she did not remember much after that. “I broke my leg and got staples in two spots,” she said.

She said she missed her aunt who had helped her a lot over the years. “When I was homeless she gave me a bed.”

In a statement, read to the inquest, Mr O’Gara said he was driving the 15.05 train from Dublin to Sligo that day. He recalled seeing two women in the distance on the track walking towards him after the train passed over the Ballisodare water bridge.

“I blew the horn and applied the train brakes to the emergency position,” he said, adding that the two women moved to the side of the track. “One lady jumped clear. The other lady didn’t… She stood on the outside of the rail track while still standing on the track.”

He added: “I continued to blow the train horn as I knew she wasn’t clear. She collided with the side of the train.”

Sligo coroner Eamonn MacGowan told Mr O’Gara he could not have done anything more to avoid the women.

As the train was coming to a stop, Mr O’Gara said he phoned the signal controller in Dublin’s Connolly Station and requested the assistance of an ambulance, the fire brigade and gardaí. He told them his exact location and the nearest access point.

His colleague, ticket inspector Greg Flanagan, said in a statement that he was in a back cab at the time. He and Mr O’Gara were the only Irish Rail staff on board. When the train came to a complete stop, he said he contacted Mr O’Gara to see if he was okay.

“I knew what was after happening because I looked out the window and saw a woman about 100m back lying on the side of the line,” he said.

When he went to the scene, he said he saw two women, one of whom was crying and trying to stand up. “The other woman was moaning and lying on the ground and I could see that she had serious injuries to her stomach.”

Paramedic Kieran Currid said one of the women was speaking but the other was unresponsive and had a major wound to her lower left side when he reached the scene. He said Ms McLoughlin had a pulse and they treated the wound but she then went into cardiac arrest. They started CPR but a doctor pronounced her dead at the scene at 4.28pm.

A postmortem showed that Ms McLoughlin had died as a result of multiple injuries sustained in the collision. Toxicology tests showed the presence of alcohol, cocaine and prescription drugs in her system.

Mr MacGowan recorded a narrative verdict that Ms McLoughlin died on the railway line at Knox Park, Ballisodare, from injuries sustained in a collision with a train, against a background of alcohol and drug intoxication.

Expressing sympathy to the deceased woman’s family, he said: “Jessica was a young woman and it is such a shame.”

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports from the northwest of Ireland