AN ELDERLY woman who was struck by a train in Co. Mayo last April was killed trying to save her beloved dog from an oncoming train, an inquest concluded today.
Bridget McHale, 70, was hunched over her beloved pet dog 'Prince' when she was struck by the Manulla to Ballina passenger train service on April 1, 2017.
Mrs McHale, from Knockshanvalley, Straide, Foxford, had been trying to move Prince from the rail tracks at the time of the tragic accident.
The inquest in Castlebar heard that the dog had laid down on a level crossing and refused to move, despite Mrs McHale's urgings.
Train driver Jonathan Hopkins sounded his hooter repeatedly when he saw the pair but was unable to avert the tragedy.
Mr Hopkins gave a detailed statement to gardaí which was read at the hearing, conducted this afternoon by the Coroner for Mayo, Patrick O'Connor.
He explained in his statement: “When I blew the hooter the dog moved away from the train onto the tracks and lay down.
“At this point the woman walked down the side of the track towards the dog.
“The woman was reaching in over the rail to try and get the dog off but then she moved onto the middle of the tracks completely and hunched over the dog.
“At this point the train was more or less on the crossing. Shortly afterwards the train struck the woman and came to a stop a short distance up the line.”
Both Mrs McHale and Prince died instantly at the scene from extensive injuries.
The deceased's grieving husband, James McHale, did not attend today's inquest, but recalled in a solemn statement that he and his wife had enjoyed "a great night" of dancing at an event in Swinford the previous night.
Mrs McHale was said to be "in great spirits" on the morning of the accident before taking Prince for a walk a walk at 10.30am.
There were 18 passengers on the train when the incident occurred, none of whom were injured or witnessed the impact.
Coroner Pat O'Connor said the circumstances of the accident were extremely sad for James McHale, who had been married to his wife for 51 years.
He sympathised with the McHale family as well as the Irish Rail personnel on duty at the time over the "heartbreaking" tragedy.
A verdict of accidental death was recorded.