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Last Updated: Friday, 17 March 2006, 11:46 GMT
Family's agonising wait for news
by Chris Stewart
Chief Reporter, BBC TV North East & Cumbria

Tom Burgess
Mr Burgess said it had turned their lives upside down

For Tom Burgess, there was an agonisingly long wait before the terrible realisation that his son was among the Tebay victims.

Because Tom Burgess is himself a railway maintenance worker, it was made even longer because he knew about the accident well before it broke on the news.

He told BBC Look North: "I was at work myself that day and we got a phone call to say there'd been an accident at Tebay and there'd been some fatalities.

"Then I realised that Darren had told me he was working at Tebay, so I tried to ring his mobile to see if he knew anything about it. But I couldn't get an answer.

"I got home and made some enquiries at the local depot where he was based, but they couldn't tell me anything.

Darren Burgess
Darren Burgess had been a railway worker for just six months

"Eventually, we got a call to ask us to go down to the depot. I got Nicola (Darren's partner) and we went down and we were told that Darren was one of the fatalities."

Darren, who was 30, had been a railway worker for just six months, having previously worked for Royal Mail.

He and Nicola had been together for four years and had recently moved into a house they had bought in Carnforth, not far from his father and mother Christine.

"It just seems such a waste", said Tom Burgess.

"At first, you just think it's a terrible accident, but as things get unravelled, you realise it should never have happened.

"It's hard to live with. We've got that for life now. It's turned our lives upside down and put a great strain on everything."

Constant 'worrying'

After the accident, Tom had to return to his own job - in the knowledge that his son had died doing exactly the same sort of work.

"In a way, it helped, but I must admit I don't like working at night now, and the wife certainly doesn't like it," he said.

"She can't rest at home worrying, and I suppose that'll always be there.

"I still can't believe it. We've got what we call green zones and red zones and they should have been safe."

Tebay memorial
A memorial marks those who died at Tebay

Mr and Mrs Burgess have sat in the public gallery at Newcastle Crown Court and have watched as Connolly and Kennett, the men convicted in the case, have arrived each day for their trial.

The sight of Connolly in particular - "arrogant and showing no sign of remorse", said Mr Burgess - has been particularly difficult for them to deal with.

Mr Burgess says the moment the old British Rail disappeared under privatisation was the moment the issue of rail safety began to change for workers like him and his son.

"At one time, we looked after ourselves. Now, people are working on sites when they have got no local knowledge," he said.

"That would never have happened before [privatisation].

"Especially at night, in the hours of darkness - you need to know what you're doing and where you are."

See how the Tebay rail tragedy happened

Memorial service for Tebay dead
15 Feb 05 |  Cumbria

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