GALLERY: Families, survivors remember Waterfall tragedy

Seven red candles flickered in front of the altar at Helensburgh’s Holy Cross Church today, symbols of seven lives tragically lost on a hot January day 10 years ago.

Some came to pay their respects to people they had never met, while for others the memorial service marked yet another year without a treasured loved one.

About 100 people filled the pews, each with their own memory and experience of the Waterfall train crash.

Among the families sat a number of emergency service personnel, including Sutherland Shire Rural Fire Service Superintendent Andrew Pinfold and Waterfall RFS captain Kelly Browne.

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The pair are no strangers to trauma and tragedy, but the incident at Waterfall is one neither will ever forget.

‘‘I remember walking down and looking and going ‘‘Oh my God,’’ and then I think I just clicked and got on with what had to be done,’’ Ms Browne said.

All the emergency service workers rallied together that day and Mr Pinfold believes the skills and experience of the team prevented further deaths.

‘‘It didn’t matter what badge you were wearing, you just got in and did the job, you found yourself performing tasks you never had before, and hope never to ever again,’’ he said.

‘‘There’s no specific training for an incident like this.’’

On January 31, 2003, the driver of a Tangara train, travelling along the South Coast line to Port Kembla, suffered a heart attack, collapsing on to a ‘‘dead man’s pedal’’, which forced his commuter train to speed up and run off the rails.

The train struck the stone wall of the rail corridor, killing seven people and injuring 16.

Killed that day were train driver Herman Zeides, 53; James Ritchie, 39, of Sans Souci; Yi Zhang, 40, of Granville; Mark Hudson, 48, of Padstow Heights; John Burt, 62, of Figtree; Marie Goder, 35, of Mortdale; and Andrew Ludmon, 38, of Cronulla.

At today's Mass, Father Patrick Vaughan spoke of the indescribable bond between those touched by the tragedy.

‘‘In a special way there’s a bond between us, because in adversity we do become very human,’’ he said.

‘‘In suffering and stress we become brothers and sisters to each other.’’

Father Vaughan urged the families of those who died to grieve in their own time, and to remember that their stories were important.

‘‘Your loved ones will not be forgotten,’’ he said.

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