The family of a ‘happy go lucky’ farmer believes he may have been looking for his phone when he was fatally struck by a train near Crimes Lane in Tattenhall earlier this year.
A jury concluded that 22-year-old Christopher Wilding's death on March 1 was a result of an accident after hearing evidence at an inquest at Warrington Coroners Court on Monday (October 12).
The inquiry heard that the former Reaseheath College student, who lived and worked at Pigeon House Farm in Handley, enjoyed going for walks with his dogs and had permission to wander the fields either side of the railway line where he was killed.
Mr Wilding’s mother Elaine Ravenscroft explained that he would occasionally cross the tracks.
“I used to go mad with him, but there was no telling him,” she said.
“All he was interested in was his work, his animals and his love for the countryside.
“He hated being inside.”
Family members and friends spoke warmly of Mr Wilding, a ‘happy go lucky’ person, during the inquest.
Margaret Wilding, from Huntington, recalled that her grandson – who she said was ‘always full of fun’ – had joined her for dinner the night before he died and had joked that he would bring a load of his washing over for her to do.
In a statement read to the jury, experienced train driver Ronan O’Mahoney said his train was travelling at around 90mph and bound for Holyhead on the night of March 1.
At around 10.45pm, after the train went round a slight bend he saw a figure on the tracks standing side-on with his hands up to his face.
Mr O’Mahoney did not even have time to apply the brakes or sound the horn.
British Transport Police temporary sergeant Gemma Jones was the first officer at the scene.
She said: “It was very dark and anything he saw would have been quick.
“Because of the corner on that stretch of railway, it would have been very difficult to see.
“Mr Wilding would have been there before Mr O’Mahoney had time to react in my opinion.”
The inquiry heard from Thomas Moore, manager at Pigeon House Farm, that Mr Wilding had dreamed of going to New Zealand to learn more about dairy farming.
“I would describe Chris as a happy type, very helpful and a very hard worker,” he added.
'Wrong place at the wrong time'
Mr Wilding’s uncle Chris Wilding wrote, in a letter read aloud at the inquest, that he was simply in ‘the wrong place at the wrong time’.
Speaking to the Chronicle following the inquest, Ms Ravenscroft and Mrs Wilding said Mr Wilding often misplaced his mobile phone and they suspected that he had lost it when he was walking his beloved dog Tess, who was found nearby in his van.
They think he returned Tess safely to his vehicle while he went back to look for it, which is when the accident occurred.
Senior coroner for Cheshire Nicholas Rheinberg said the ‘terribly sad’ accident must be ‘every driver’s worst nightmare’.