It wasn’t his fault and despite his best efforts he was unable to stop it happening. When he got out he saw carriages strewn on their side and one was in the air.
Bertie recalled seeing bleeding passengers and twisted metal. “I thought to myself ‘if only’. But I can’t change what happened,” the 82-year-old said.
Some of the carriages were across the main line and, thinking a train was due, he ran down the track setting warning detonators on the rails and keeping a watch.
There was no counselling in his day and he had the unenviable task of driving the first train back to Dublin after the scene had been cleared.
Inspector Pat McCarthy was a young garda based in Charleville at the time. He was off-duty when he heard the news, but rushed to the scene. “The carriages were mangled. Some of them were in the air. It was just pure chaos.”
He described seeing horrific injuries and admitted that looking for bodies in the wreckage was fairly gruesome work.
“It was the worst thing I ever witnessed. I saw legs and arms sticking out from under carriages. You knew those people were dead,” Inspector McCarthy said.
Tadhg Barry, who worked for CIÉ, was one of the first on the scene. “You’d swear a bomb had been dropped, it was that bad,” he said.
Mary Coughlan, who was matron at Mallow hospital, remembers the casualties arriving. She worked in London during The Blitz and knew what was coming.
“You’d have to sort them out. They were coming in in ones and twos. The really ill went to ICU, others to theatre and those with fractures elsewhere. We had to think on our feet,” she said.
She remembers that a helicopter, which had been working on the Kinsale gas field, was brought in to ferry the injured to what was then Cork Regional Hospital.
Dr Finbarr Kennedy used his skills at the scene. He said the response by the emergency services was magnificent.
“I can’t really remember what I did. I just went in there and went to work,” the doctor said modestly.
Moyra Woodworth, who lost her husband, Bruce, in the accident unveiled the garden of remembrance yesterday.
“It is a very special day for us, for it allows us to acknowledge and remember. It’s a chance to say goodbye in a way we never got to 25 years ago,” Ms Woodworth, who lives in Carrigaline, said.
She said the people of Buttevant had been “magnificent” on the day of the crash and added that they should also be praised for the effort they put into yesterday’s commemoration.
The organising committee put on shuttle buses from the outskirts of the town to the railway station, and invited everybody who attended t to a reception afterwards in the local hall.