Grayrigg train crash: Son forgives crash engineer
- 29 October 2012
- From the section Cumbria
The son of a woman killed in the Grayrigg train crash in Cumbria says he has forgiven the trackman who forgot to check the tracks.
Margaret Masson, 84, of Glasgow, died after the Virgin train derailed on the West Coast main line in February 2007.
The train went over a "degraded" set of points at 92mph and careered down an embankment, leaving 88 people injured, including two members of the train crew.
Dave Lewis, a maintenance manager from Preston who worked at Network Rail, admitted at a hearing that he was "under pressure" and had forgotten to inspect the points near where the train derailed.
Now, five years after the crash, BBC's Inside Out has brought Mr Lewis and Mrs Masson's son George together to "close a chapter" in their lives.
Speaking about the day he heard the news about his mother, Mr Masson said: "My son rang me at my office and said: 'Sit down'.
"I said: 'What's wrong?' He said: 'Mum's been killed'. I just broke down then."
The following day, Mr Masson and his family went to the crash site.
He said: "We actually saw the train and where my mum was. We stayed there about half an hour."
At an inquest in November 2011, Mr Lewis said he had been "under pressure" when he failed to patrol a section of the West Coast main line five days before the crash.
He said he had felt like a man "spinning plates on sticks".
The hearing was told how Mr Lewis had sent an email to his bosses one year before the crash, in which he described the inspection system as a "shambles".
The jurors heard how an inquiry ruled the "immediate cause" of the crash was that the train had gone over a "degraded and unsafe" set of points, known as Lambrigg 2B.
One of three stretcher bars, which keep moving rails a set distance apart, was missing while the other two were fractured and bolts were missing.
They also heard how Mr Lewis and his team were under-staffed, with workers not given the right tools or enough time to carry out checks.
Mr Lewis said: "I realised what I should have done the weekend prior and I just said to one of our senior managers: 'That is down to me. Nobody else, that's me'.
"I would say not a week goes by when I don't think: 'If only I'd done that'."
After the crash, Mr Lewis said he "lost a heck of a lot" after his marriage broke down, he lost his job and he had to sell his house.
Mr Masson said: "I wanted to rip his [Mr Lewis'] head off his shoulders, I just wanted to kill him, that is the way I felt - he took my mother's life, I'll take his life.
"When I heard his evidence I started putting two and two together and I said: 'No that is not right, he did not deserve that', especially when I heard the emails and telephone conversations. Nobody listened to him.
"I stood up and the coroner asked if I had anything to say and I told him: 'For what that man tried to do I respect him - I'll have a drink with him any time'."
Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd admitted health and safety breaches in April and was fined £4m.
'Sincerity and remorse'
As part of the BBC Inside Out programme, Mr Lewis travelled over the crash site in a train for the first time since 2007.
He said: "This is the first time I have been on the train since the accident.
"My stomach is turning over now just thinking about where we are going.
"It's an amazing feeling inside... it has helped me. That's another chapter closed."
He then travelled to Glasgow for an emotional meeting with Mr Masson and his family.
Mr Masson said: "He made a mistake, I forgive him for that.
"You [Mr Lewis] showed sincerity and remorse - you've got to live with that the same as I have to live with it.
"It's been nice to meet him with everything that's happened, I've got some closure for what's happened and I think he has also.
"I class him as a friend now."
BBC Inside Out's film of Dave Lewis and George Masson's story will be shown on BBC One on Monday, 29 October at 19:30 GMT