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Memories of Clogh Road Bridge railway accident as five victims honoured

The devastating crash happened on 31 December 1975.

A MEMORIAL FOR the five people killed in the Clogh Road Bridge railway accident was held today to mark the 40th anniversary of one of the worst accidents in Irish rail history.

Family and friends of passengers William Hayes, 80, Philomena Moss, aged 50, Anthony O’Brien, 42 and Peter Roche, 16, as well as those of off-duty CIÉ employee Richard O’Neill, 24, gathered at the site near Camolin in county Wexford.

All five died when on the morning of New Year’s Eve 1975, an excavator on the back of a tractor hit the bridge at 9.40am, causing the rail to dislodge. Despite frantic efforts to stop, the 8.05am train from Rosslare was approaching the bridge at 55mph and as a result four carriages derailed.

As well as the five fatalities, 43 people were injured. In total, there were 94 people on board the train.

In the report into the tragedy, train driver Joe O’Neill said he saw a man standing beside the track waving his hands, apparently trying to stop the train about 400 yards from the bridge.

It was the first clue that something wasn’t quite right with the journey.

O’Neill immediately sounded the hooter and applied both brakes. His quick action slowed the train down to less than 30mph but O’Neill knew he was going to derail.

The tractor driver on inspecting the bridge after hitting it said it was “rotten through” and he was “unfortunate to be the first to damage it”. The final report noted that there were no signs or notices to advise road users of the clearance height under the bridge.

The report also exonerated all CIE staff, stating categorically that the derailment could not be attributed to any member of the crew or the mechanical condition of the train.

Christopher Hill, the man at the side of the tracks who bravely tried to warn O’Neill about the problem, was commended by the railway inspector officer.

Each family was represented at the ceremony, as well as relatives of the train and tractor drivers. A specially commissioned bronze plaque was erected to remember those who lost their lives.

A spokesperson for Iarnród Éireann said:

Forty years since Clogh Road Bridge Accident,  it is fitting to remember the five people who lost their lives in this tragic accident and we hope that the families that are here today will obtain solace by their loved ones being remembered.

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