Train driver Brett McCullough and conductor Donald Dinnie died in the derailment near Stonehaven, ScotRail’s managing director has confirmed.
Mr McCullough died alongside the train’s conductor Donald Dinnie and a passenger yesterday morning as the 6.38am Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street ScotRail service crashed after heavy rain caused a landslip on the track.
Six people were injured.
Alex Hynes, speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme, said: “Yesterday was a devastating day for everybody who works in the rail industry in Scotland.
“Our love and support is sent to the victims of this accident and their families, those that were injured in the accident and anybody who was touched by yesterday’s terrible tragedy.”
The third person who died is believed to have been a passenger on the train.
Dozens of emergency service vehicles including from the coastguard, as well as an air ambulance, rushed to the scene, several hundred metres from the nearest road amid a steep-sided valley in thick woods.
Those injured are understood to have minor wounds.
The crash, which caused one of the train’s four carriages to completely overturn, happened around a mile west of the hamlet of Tewel.
Although officials would not comment on the cause, the area saw extremely heavy rain overnight and Network Rail posted social media footage of a landslip in the same area at Carmont at 9.49am.
The organisation, which owns and manages Britain’s railway network, had earlier said the landslip meant services from Stonehaven were all cancelled.
Police said reports of the derailment were first received at 9.40am. It is believed the alarm was raised through the use of a signal box in Carmont.
Rail industry sources said the train stopped due to a landslip and moved back along the line, where it then crashed into another mudslide.
It is understood the locomotive and three carriages derailed and slid down an embankment. The Aslef train drivers’ union said it then caught fire.
Speaking outside Stonehaven police station but declining to take questions, Chief Inspector Brian McAleese, of British Transport Police, said: “Very sadly, despite the best efforts of paramedics, we can confirm that three people have been pronounced dead at the scene.
“Six people have been taken to hospital for injuries which are thankfully not believed to be serious.
“This is a tragic incident and first and foremost our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have very sadly died.”
Mr McAleese did not reveal how many people were on the train but reports claimed there were six staff and six passengers. The 6.38am service is understood to have been significantly quieter than usual due to lockdown measures in Aberdeen and increased numbers of people working from home.
He added: “I would like to reassure the public that this was not a busy service and from CCTV inquiries of witness statements we believe all passengers have been accounted for.
“However, once the area has been made safe then a full and thorough search will be conducted which is likely to take some time.
“I know many people will understandably have questions.
“An investigation will be directed by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. We will also be working closely with them alongside the Rail Accident Investigation Branch at the Office of Road and Rail to establish the full circumstances of how this train came to derail.”
Mr Hynes said the rail operator is working with the emergency services on site to establish the cause of the tragedy.
“Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by this tragic event, particularly the families of those who have lost their lives.
“The railway in Scotland is a family and it’s one that is hurting today.”
Mick Lynch, RMT assistant general secretary, said: “RMT will unite to provide support, assistance and solidarity at this distressing time.
“Safety on the railway has to be an absolute priority and this union will be working with the various agencies to establish the facts behind this disaster which has sent shock waves right throughout our industry.”