Travelling Safely? Bishop Nigel’s recent article in the Courier and Advertiser
Returning from my summer holiday in Shetland the Aberdeen bound car ferry was called to assist with the rescue of oil workers whose helicopter crashed without warning into the sea off Sumburgh Head. It was distressing as we learned that four people lost their lives. Whether attributable to mechanical failure, weather conditions or pilot error such accidents are tragic, changing the lives of individuals, their families and friends.
Some moments come seemingly from nowhere and are real life-changers. Our daily routine is knocked for six. So although modern travel is generally safe things can still go dreadfully wrong and travel accidents are particularly traumatic for all those caught up in them.
The Spanish express train crash near Santiago de Compostela in July was captured on a trackside CCTV recorder looking towards the approaching train, which entered a curve at almost twice the speed restriction, tipping over and killing 79 people. The experienced driver has been charged with manslaughter due to negligence, but the accident also highlights the complexities of 21st century train driving and commercial demand for faster journeys.
The recent horrendous road pile-up in the fog on Sheppey crossing in Kent involved a staggering hundred and more vehicles, causing sixty injuries. A major incident was declared at the local hospital. There was criticism of the bridge’s lack of floodlighting and it seems some drivers were travelling too fast and close without lights, headlong into danger in the morning rush hour.
Clergy in our region have written publically of their similar concerns for the infamous single carriageway stretches of the A9 through central Scotland and the many bereavements occasioned by road accidents whose dreadful consequences their ministries deal with.
Bishops House is underneath the regular flight path for the air ambulance helicopter conveying emergencies to Ninewells Hospital. We warn guests that the noise of the engines can be quite alarming in the middle of the night. Each time it flies over I say a quick prayer for the patient, paramedics and crew. Unlike the rest of the UK where air ambulances are funded by charitable donations, in Scotland the service is fully funded by NHS Scotland.
We should cherish those who staff our emergency services in Courier country fire and rescue, ambulance, police and coastguard. Also the medical staff who receive the badly injured into their care. After all, who can say when our need might arise for their bravery and skill?
Everyday stories of courageous initiative are heartening too. So spare a thought for the rail worker at Southend Central station suspended after jumping onto the track to rescue a disabled woman passenger who had fallen off the platform edge just before a train was due. He broke safety rules and now faces disciplinary action rather than an award. What is our humanity coming to?
This article appeared in Dundee Courier on Friday, 13 August 2013