Priest continues to honour Waterfall victims

They unzipped the top of the body bag so Father Patrick Vaughan could perform his duty beside the train tracks near Waterfall.

He upended a little bottle of oil against his thumb and moved it gently across the woman's forehead, then did the same on her hands.

"Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit," he said. "May the Lord who frees you from sin, save you and raise you up."

Father Vaughan walked through the bush for 90 minutes to be one of the first to arrive to aid victims of the 2003 Waterfall train disaster, 10 years ago today.

He wanted to be with the survivors, give them someone to talk to, pray for them and anoint the injured and dying.

Father Patrick Vaughan was one of the first people to reach the crash scene. Picture: ROBERT PEET

Father Patrick Vaughan was one of the first people to reach the crash scene. Picture: ROBERT PEET

He left home wearing his clerical collar, and defied multiple police checkpoints to reach the accident site.

"I'm a Catholic priest," he would tell the officers, not necessarily breaking pace.

It was quiet when he arrived, and very hot. A group of survivors were being shielded from the sun under a tarpaulin. They were too shocked to express themselves much, Father Vaughan recalled.

A woman told him she had blacked out for the entire ordeal, but she remembered the train lifting off the tracks in the early stages of the derailment.

When she woke she was outside on the ground, inexplicably without shoes.

"What really shocked me was the vision of the train," Father Vaughan said.

"It was like a toy train set down up against the rock cliff. Then I realised there were people in those carriages."

Father Vaughan was priest at Helensburgh's Holy Cross Parish on January 31, 2003, when the train derailed.

He has since taken up duties at St Patrick's at Port Kembla, but returns to Helensburgh for a memorial service marking Waterfall each year.

The Helensburgh church is still a special place for survivors.

"They are like a family now," Father Vaughan said.


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