John Vella has not stepped foot on a train since he was involved in a rail collision at Pirron Yallock on July 13 last year, and he’s not sure he will ever again.
Although the Portland man largely escaped physical injury when the train he was on collided with a truck at an unprotected level crossing near Colac, the effects of the traumatic experience have stayed with him.
“There’s no way in the world I would ever get on another train … maybe if I get older and I can’t drive, I might be forced to,” Mr Vella said.
“I’ve looked at trains and I cringe when I hear them.”
Last year Mr Vella described to The Standard the terrifying moments after a Warrnambool-bound locomotive ploughed into a semi-trailer on a Wednesday afternoon, causing multiple carriages to derail.
He said the seconds between the impact and the train coming to a stop were the longest of his life.
“While we were in that 20-second limbo, you can only think are we going to flip or roll, and what have we hit? What's gone wrong?” he said.
I just got halfway down the road, turned around and thought, ‘no, I can’t do that'.John Vella
Mr Vella had been travelling in first-class, and received a knock to the head and some bruising.
At the time, Colac police Sergeant Shane Howard said about 100 passengers on the train and the two drivers were lucky to be alive. Twenty people were assessed for injuries.
Mr Vella, who had been returning from a medical appointment on the day, said he felt compelled to return to the site of the accident about three months after it happened.
“I just got halfway down the road, turned around and thought, ‘no, I can’t do that’,” Mr Vella said. “I was trying to get a bit of closure.”
A year on, Mr Vella said in some ways the experience changed his perspective.
“A lot things have changed personally for me,” he said.
“I used to stress about money and bills and stuff like that, but now I look at it and think, ‘well it could be over in a day, you just don’t know’.”
“I used to stress about the little things, especially when you get paid monthly, you worry about things like that – the kids and money.
“Now I don’t worry about it, I just do what I have to do and carry on.”
Last year Mr Vella said after the crash the first thing he wanted to do was hug his children.