Published: 00:01, 03 June 2015
A signalman hit while closing a level crossing has spoken for the first time of his ordeal.
Grandfather-of-eight Doug Caddell was shutting the crossing in East Farleigh when a vehicle struck the gate which in turn ricocheted into the 62-year-old.
The collision knocked Mr Caddell to the ground, leaving him unconscious with a severe head wound and a 'hangman’s fracture' to two of his vertebrae. He was rushed to the Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury.
His condition was so unstable surgeons could not operate for four days and he had to be tied down to stop any movement causing further damage.
His vertebrae have been surgically repaired but are yet to fully fuse together and it will be some time before Mr Cadell regains full fitness. He still has to wear a collar around his neck and will embark on a course of physiotherapy in July.
He is unable to work and, although he has returned home to Folkestone, is heavily reliant upon the support of his wife.
Video: Signalman Doug Caddell speaks out - Graham Stothard reports
Police are still investigating the incident which happened on Friday April 24, at around 1.30pm, just as a train was approaching. The gates were being closed to stop traffic.
The incident caused travel chaos as the oncoming train had to be halted and eight other services stopped on the line while emergency services responded. Drivers were also spoken to at the scene.
Mr Caddell said he could not remember being struck by the gate. He added: "I took a nasty smack to my head and the first thing I knew about it was the ambulance crew trying to spinal board me while I was still on the ground. I must have been well out."
Now the signaller, who started working for Network Rail in 2003, is calling on people to show more care when using level crossings.
He said: “I am at the bottom of a very long slope, it would appear.
“It’s put a big strain on my family. I have got one vivid memory of when I was in hospital.
“I can remember my wife asking me to keep breathing. I’m not quite sure what I was doing at the time but it hit home to me that I was really in trouble.
“The hospital staff were really brilliant. The surgeon is a genius. From what I have been told, by rights I shouldn’t be here.
"While I am likely to have months of more recovery, I have retained full functions and control and I can only say that I feel truly blessed."
Urging road users to show more care at crossings, he added: “It’s not just themselves that they are putting at risk. It’s putting other road users at risk, pedestrians and train drivers."
Video: The moment Doug Caddell was hit at a level crossing
He also said while he is keen to return to work, he cannot face returning to the East Farleigh crossing.
Today Network Rail and British Transport Police will be at the crossing where Mr Caddell suffered his injuries to launch a new safety campaign.
They will be on hand to offer safety advice as part of the initiative, which has started to coincide with International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD).
In particular the campaign will target cyclists as that group has seen 140 near misses and four fatalities over the past four years.
The plan is to remind cyclists that an amber warning means a train is approaching and that they should dismount.
They should also look and listen for trains and prevent wheels from getting stuck in tracks.
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