Published in the Weekend Australian Magazine, August 2016

It’s late December 2012, a few days before Christmas. Len Gaut parks his car and grabs what he needs from the back seat. He walks across the busy suburban Sydney street to a bridge that spans the train tracks seven metres below and stops halfway. The girl who jumpedfrom this spot where Gaut now stands, who landed on the tracks in front of Gaut’s train an hour before sunrise, was only 17.

Excerpt below:

There were two drivers in the cabin. His mate had never had a fatality before but for Gaut, 55, it was all too common. The NSW TrainLink driver speaks of time slowing down; of the long walk back along the tracks to confirm what he already knew. As he watched the girl’s last seconds of life, the only thought that had flashed through his mind was, Here we go again.

They’re the unseen faces that see too much.

Forced to bear graphic witness to incidents far outside their job description, train drivers are joining the call to urgently address what Lifeline’s Alan Woodward calls a national emergency: this country’s suicide rate. Suicide accounted for more than 2800 Australian deaths in 2014, the last reported year: around eight a day, more than double the national road toll. About 150 of those suicides occur in the rail corridor each year. They are the most horrific deaths you could imagine.
Like most suicides, they go unreported to the public, but within the rail industry it’s an issue that’s always bubbled below the surface. In recent years, the industry has made a point of addressing the trauma faced by its employees and is trying to change a culture that expected workers to just carry on. By telling their stories, train drivers hope to spark conversations about how we can reduce the number of lives lost through suicide and the ripple effect that ruins so many more.

A lot happened to Len Gaut in the three days between the girl’s fatal leap and his return to that spot on the bridge. The mandatory blood and urine tests. The police interview, reliving every detail. The trip to the mall the day after, trying to keep his mind off it; running into a fellow driver and his teenage daughter there. His colleague’s daughter had started talking about the girl who died, not knowing that Gaut was in the train. Before he could say anything she thrust her phone in his face, showing him a photo of the smiling girl in her school uniform, making Gaut recoil and avert his eyes. Then there was the barbecue at his 10ha hobby farm north of Gosford, on the NSW central coast; mates gathering to talk about any- thing other than the railways, until someone burst in and delivered the barbecue-stopper: “You were on the train that killed that girl, weren’t you?”

Read the entire article in the Weekend Austrlian online here.

View the pdf of full article here