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Ex-train driver cannot sleep and has turned to drink after being involved in eight rail suicides

Ex-train driver has PTSD, cannot sleep and has turned to drink after being involved in EIGHT rail suicides including one young man who smiled and waved when he was killed

  • Dave Goodwin, 63 and from Plymouth, started working on the railways in 1974
  • But more than four decades later his experiences have left him a 'broken man'
  • On a tough day he can drink 10 pints and smoke 60 cigarettes to numb the pain
  • He has now decided to tell his story as part of Mental Health Awareness day

By James Wood For Mailonline

Published: 07:17 EDT, 10 October 2018 | Updated: 09:59 EDT, 10 October 2018

A former train driver says he has turned to drink and cannot sleep after he was involved in eight rail suicides – including a young man who waved and smiled before he was struck.

Dave Goodwin, 63, says he is constantly haunted by images of body parts strewn across railway tracks following a string of traumatic incidents during his career.

He followed in his father's footsteps and started working on the railways in 1974 as he wanted to make him proud.

But more than four decades later his experiences have left him a 'broken man'.

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Dave Goodwin (pictured), 63 and from Plymouth, started working on the railways in 1974. In 1997 he was advised to leave his career for the sake of his mental health after he stepped on human remains when he was getting out of his train cab, which pushed him over the edge

During his 23-year career he was involved in eight rail suicides including one where a young man waved and smiled at Mr Goodwin as the train hurled towards him.

Each incident has been left etched in Mr Goodwin's mind and he now cannot sleep in the dark or his mind is flooded with flashbacks.

On a really tough day, he will drink 10 pints and smoke 60 cigarettes as he tries to numb the pain.

Mr Goodwin, of Plymouth, Devon, decided to tell his story to Plymouth Live as part of Mental Health Awareness day in the hope that other train drivers will seek support.

He is also urging anyone thinking of taking their own life to speak up and seek help.

He said his first suicide was while working as a driver in Manchester in the late 1980s when a man stepped out onto the tracks.

He said he still remembers the young man's name, and the cries of his relatives in the coroner's court room.

He said: 'At 20-something years old, he took his life right in front of me and he used me to do it.

'I saw this lad hanging out in the bushes, I slowed my train down as the signal was on red, and the signal changed and I started to move into the platform.

'All of a sudden he came out like a spring. I saw his fingers open up and I thought 'what the bloody hell is he doing?' All of a sudden he just appeared out in front of me.

'I just lost him because of the bushes and he just come out in front and he was waving and smiling at me.

'He wouldn't move, he just wouldn't move.'

Mr Goodwin pulled the safety lever, which drivers call 'the dead man', and braced himself. He put his fingers in his ears and looked down as he tried to avoid witnessing the inevitable impact.

But he pulled his fingers out of his ears too quickly and that day he heard sounds that would haunt him decades later.

'I felt as if somebody had poured a load of water all over me, I was really drenched, soaking wet,' he added.

When Mr Goodwin returned to the station, he was told he would have to continue driving because there wasn't a relief driver available.

After returning the train to Manchester Piccadilly, he was sent home in a taxi.

A manager from the station told him the young man was still alive and was going to be charged with trespassing, but by 7.30am the next morning two police officers arrived at his door.

He said: 'This was the first suicide. I still remember the officers saying 'about that lad you ran over last night on the train, he's died'.

'It stays with you and it will stay with me forever.'

Mr Goodwin carried on driving trains for another nine years, and in that time was involved in another seven incidents.

In 1997 Mr Goodwin was advised to leave his career for the sake of his mental health after he stepped on human remains when he was getting out of his train cab, which pushed him over the edge.

He went looking for help and got himself admitted to a psychiatric unit, where he was kept in for six weeks diagnosed with severe chronic PTSD. He was given anti-depressants, which he still takes today.

Mr Goodwin decided to tell his story as part of Mental Health Awareness day in the hope that other train drivers (pictured Parsons Green tube station) will seek support

Mr Goodwin decided to tell his story as part of Mental Health Awareness day in the hope that other train drivers (pictured Parsons Green tube station) will seek support

The incidents tore Mr Goodwin's family life apart. When he hears of rail suicides in the news, his sympathies lie with the driver, and their families.

He added: 'It's a shame for the driver, it's a shame for his family.

'If he's got kids, his kids will see the difference in him, his wife will.

'When you're married like I was – I'm divorced now – it's a big impact on your family, on the train driver's family. It doesn't just affect the driver.

'It alters your attitude, your behaviour. It's frightening and you don't know what is happening to yourself.

'It can cause a lot of rows, they don't know what is going on with you until you see a doctor.

'Then you get told that you've got severe chronic PTSD, and that makes you feel terrible all because someone was selfish doing that – they shouldn't do it.

'I know that times are desperate, desperate people do that, but there is help out there, please talk to someone.'

On an average night, Mr Goodwin says he will only get around one or two hours sleep.

He says he started drinking to try and make himself pass out – to blank out the memories that keep flooding back.

'It makes you a bag of nerves,' he said.

'If the phone rings, I'm jumpy. Someone comes at the back of me and taps me on the shoulder, I jump.

'This is what it does to you.'

After Mr Goodwin left the train-driving profession (pictured stock image) he went looking for help and got himself admitted to a psychiatric unit, where he was kept in for six weeks diagnosed with severe chronic PTSD. He was given anti-depressants, which he still takes today

After Mr Goodwin left the train-driving profession (pictured stock image) he went looking for help and got himself admitted to a psychiatric unit, where he was kept in for six weeks diagnosed with severe chronic PTSD. He was given anti-depressants, which he still takes today

One incident that sticks in Mr Goodwin's mind is a young man who he reported on the tracks. A few days later he discovered his decapitated body in the same spot.

He said: 'I remember once, I was bringing the last train into Altrincham and it was dark, and I saw the silhouette of a person and I could see him with his shoulders hunched up.

'I slammed my breaks on, I shouted 'are you trying to kill yourself you daft bleeding idiot?'.

'I reported that and I believed that he got picked up and put away for 48-hours under mental health. They released him and when I came back to work after a couple days sick, I was bringing the first train back to Altrincham.

'I found his body. He was still dressed the same, but he had no head. It was horrible.'

Mr Goodwin said he cannot help but feel guilty about the incidents on the tracks, even when people tell him there was nothing he could have done.

He said: 'It's relieving when the coroner turns around and he says to you 'no blame on the driver'. The first lad they found a note in his back pocket, and he did intend to take his own life.

'It was just a relief to hear the coroner say 'no blame on the driver'.

'When somebody steps out in front of you, you can't stop it, when you're driving at 125mph, it takes around a mile to stop. It's something I've got to live with, there's guilt there.

'The point is, they use trains and they don't give a damn about the driver at the front and what it does to them. They're using that train as an instrument to kill themselves, it's so wrong.

'That poor driver is going to work and he wants to do his job and he wants to come home like the way he left in the morning. Come home and be happy. He doesn't want to come down dull, morbid, upset. He doesn't want any of that.'

He is now urging desperate people to seek help, before it's too late.

He said: 'I did think that they're selfish, but it's not fair – it's someone who is in desperate need, and they are desperate people.

'The help is out there, it is there for you. Go and talk to a GP they'll put you in touch with a councillor.

'It's not stupid to say, if you've got bad thoughts and you're thinking of ending your life, there's someone there to talk to, think of your families, what it does to the driver.

'Life is precious, you've only got one life and you've got to live it. Don't mess with trains.'

For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch. See www.samaritans.org for details.

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