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Huntly family's hearts burst with pride over actions of heroic daughter and sister

By Pat Scott

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THE heroic Huntly woman who raised the alarm after last week's train derailment called her family early the same morning urging them all to take care in the atrocious weather.

Just three hours later, Nicola Whyte, 31, called her partner, Maxine Dunn to tell her there had been a derailment but she was okay - mobile signal was lost and Maxine could not contact her again.

Maxine relayed the news to Nicola's family in Huntly but they had no idea of the scale of the derailment until images began to appear on the news.

Nicola, a conductor with Scotrail for three years, was travelling to Dundee to work on services into Fife after her scheduled rota was cancelled

The family are enormously proud of what Nicola did to get help for the others on the train and her sister Gemma (29) has already started a campaign to have her extraordinary bravery recognised.

Gemma said: "I couldn't have done what she did. She put exactly all that she had learned in training into action - she even went back into the carriage for her bag with her high vis jacket. She's spoken about it - the scene round about her, smoke and flames and how she lowered herself out of the carriage despite having a sore shoulder, bumping her head as she went but taking care not to break her glasses - she loves her glasses!

"She had called 999 from the carriage but when she couldn't hear sirens coming she called again once she got out but then set off walking."

Mum, Anne said: "I can't imagine how she walked three miles along the line with the ballast and sleepers, it could not have been easy. Once she reached the signal box she was looked after but flatly refused to go in an ambulance or take any help saying that there were people much more in need than her."

Dad, Allan described his daughter as "a very lucky quine".

He said: "We worry about our girls in their cars but rail crashes are so rare, you never think of it happening. It's the only thing we can be thankful to coronavirus for - usually that train would have been packed.

"It's lucky Nicola chose to sit where she did or the outcome could have been very different- she had been messaging all of us from the train earlier in the journey."

Gemma collected Nicola from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary last Wednesday night and said the near tragedy has brought the two of them and younger sister Andrea (19) closer than ever.

Gemma said: "We had a wee cuddle but she was obviously very sore. On the journey she started speaking about it and got very upset so I said not to talk but she wanted to talk. It was the same once she was back in the house with mum.

"Nicola will need all the help and support she can get, but as a family we have been speaking about things. We have all been offered help and we just need to accept it - we all need that to recover.

"We are truly heartbroken for the families whose loved ones have not come home to them and feel so lucky to still have Nicola."

A campaign is under way to have Nicolarecognised for her bravery.

Gemma believes she is a real contender for thePride of Britain outstanding bravery award and has posted a link on how she can be nominated on her Facebook page - details can also be found at www.prideofbritain.com/

The family also hope that her actions may be recognised by the emergency services.

Aberdeenshire Councillor Gwyneth Petrie has paid tribute to her former school friend saying: "It is unimaginable what it must have been like to be on that train, but despite the horror of the crash, Nicola’s first thought was to get help for those still on the train. To go for that help, whilst injured, is beyond brave, and Nicola is truly a hero.

“Nicola’s actions on that day saved others, and her bravery is to be commended. I am truly honoured to call her a friend, and I hope that she recovers quickly, through what will be a very difficult time for her.”

On Wednesday, Nicola and her family attended the one minute's silence at Aberdeen Station in memory of the people who lost their lives in the derailment.

Gemma said: "People speak of the Scotrail family, that is really how it is, everyone looks out for each other so there is a real sense of loss and sadness."

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