Train driver Mike Leonard, 54, felt ‘helpless’ when he came within seconds of hitting an elderly man walking his dogs across the tracks on the Harlech Cliffs level crossing
When train driver Mike Leonard spotted two figures on the railway track, he thought it was sheep – but as he got closer, he realised it an elderly man walking his two dogs. The 54-year-old recalls feeling “helpless” as he witnessed the dog walker come within seconds of his death.
Mike watched the man step out in front of the train with his walking stick – and felt lucky it wasn’t a moment later. He explained: “The dogs weren’t on a lead and the man didn’t even look as he crossed. I was about four seconds away from hitting him.”
In the clip, the train can be seen chugging along as the dog walker darts over a narrow crossing in front of the moving vehicle.
The incident occurred between Machynlleth and Pwllheli in Wales on July 9 – and it isn’t the first or last time Mike has had a near-miss on the tracks.
Just three weeks later, at the same location, another dog owner had a narrow escape after following their pet who wasn’t on a lead.
Mike, who has been driving for 15 years, said he has lost count of the number of times he has been forced to apply the emergency brake because of people crossing.
He explained: “In that moment you’re actually helpless. You put the brake into emergency, you blow the horn, and it’s out of your hands.
“The train stops when it stops. You just watch everything unfolding in front of you. It’s like it all just slows down.
“I have had around six instances I would call very bad near misses, where people have been seconds away from being hit by the train.
“One time involved two school children near Shrewsbury where one was dancing on the track, purposely misusing the level crossing – recklessly risking their life.”
Mike is one of the many rail industry workers who have had to take time off work after witnessing a near miss or fatality on the job.
“The impact of these incidents, especially fatalities of this kind, reach further than people think,” he said.
“You sometimes go blank, and you keep on thinking about it – the ‘what ifs’ really play on your mind.
“The more instances you have, it’s like you’ve had enough, it can be depressing.”
With summer holidays in full swing, Network Rail is reminding tourists and residents to “stop, look and listen” before they cross the rail crossings.
Dogs are advised to be kept on leads, children kept as close as possible to guardians, all while adhering to the safety signs before stepping onto the track.
Krista Sexton, head of operational risk at Network Rail Wales and Borders said: “Trains approach almost silently.
“If you’re distracted by a dog, headphones, mobile phone or anything else, you won’t notice a train approaching until it’s too late.”