Suicide by train on the increase

2008-11-28 00:00

Death by speeding train is on the increase.

Authorities are concerned about the number of people who have taken their own lives by jumping in front of speeding trains recently.

During the past year, there has been a significant increase in the number of people who have committed suicide this way.

Train drivers who spoke to the Weekend Witness on condition of anonymity said that they have witnessed dozens of people dying on rail tracks. Most often, the victims run out in front of the trains and there is little the train driver can do to stop in time.

The problem has intensified in the past year, leaving many train drivers highly traumatised and some undergoing counselling.

“It’s really scary; these people come out of nowhere and fling themselves on to the tracks. The worst part is that you cannot stop as the train travels at 100 km/h,” said one train driver.

He said it is “horrific” as the victim’s body usually jams the train’s wheels.

“It is the saddest thing to see. You think about that person for weeks after the incident. Some drivers even leave the profession because they can’t deal with the trauma,” he said.

He said that often when these suicides occur, emergency services find body parts scattered over the tracks.

“One incident like this can cause huge delays. It takes time because another driver has to be sent in and a report has to be compiled,” he said.

Metrorail marketing and communications manager Thandi Mkhize confirmed that suicides are a problem, but said most of the people killed by trains are not suicides, but were illegally crossing the tracks.

“We would like to urge the community that such incidents affect not only Metrorail, but also impact on the economy, because once the driver is traumatised, he cannot proceed with his duty.

This results in train delays,” she said.

Mkhize said train drivers who have witnessed suicides undergo intensive trauma counselling before they resume duty.

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