herald

Monday 17 December 2018

Woman was killed by train as she tried to save her pet dog

'Prince had stubbornly lain down on the tracks at the Knockshanvalley level crossing and was refusing to budge.' (stock photo)
'Prince had stubbornly lain down on the tracks at the Knockshanvalley level crossing and was refusing to budge.' (stock photo)

A devoted wife and mother was killed while trying to pull her pet dog from the path of an oncoming train, an inquest has heard.

Bridget McHale (70), from Foxford, Co Mayo, was hunched over her beloved dog Prince when she was struck by the Manulla to Ballina passenger train on April 1 last.

Prince had stubbornly lain down on the tracks at the Knockshanvalley level crossing and was refusing to budge.

Train driver Jonathan Hopkins gave a detailed statement to gardai, which was yesterday read into evidence at the inquest in Castlebar into Mrs McHale's death.

It was conducted by the Coroner for Mayo, Patrick O'Connor.

Mr Hopkins blew his hooter when he saw the dog on the crossing.

He explained in his statement: "When I blew the hooter the dog moved away from the train onto the tracks and lay down.

"At this point the woman walked down the side of the track towards the dog."

The driver said he was blowing the hooter continuously to warn the woman and had the brakes in the emergency position.

"The woman was reaching in over the rail to try to get the dog off, but then she moved onto the middle of the tracks completely and hunched over the dog.

"At this point the train was more or less on the crossing. Shortly afterwards the train struck the woman and came to a stop a short distance up the line."

Mrs McHale and Prince died immediately.

James McHale, the grieving husband of the deceased, did not attend yesterday's hearing.

But, in a statement to gardai that was read to the inquest, he sadly recalled that on the night before the tragedy they had been dancing in Swinford and enjoyed "a great night".

The morning of the accident she had been "in great spirits" and they had read the papers and worked on a crossword before she took Prince for a walk at 10.30am.

Bridget would walk Prince at least twice a day and always on the same route, Mr McHale added.

There were 18 passengers on the train when the accident happened. None witnessed the impact and none was injured.

After a jury had returned a verdict of accidental death, the Coroner sympathised with the McHale family on their loss.

It was a sad case of a woman giving up her life for her dog, he said.

He said the reaction of Mrs McHale in trying to save her dog was the normal reaction of a kind person when a beloved pet was in danger.

The circumstances of the death were extremely sad for Mr McHale, who had been married to Bridget for 51 years.

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