Bethan Roper GWR train passenger who stuck head out of train window killed by tree branch. Inquest hears Welsh woman was under influence of alcohol while also citing other contributing factors.
Bethan Roper, 28, received fatal head injuries in the incident on a Great Western Railway (GWR) train that was travelling at around 75mph. Roper was returning home to south Wales on 1 December 2018 from a day out with friends Christmas shopping in Bath.
The GWR London Paddington to Exeter service used carriages with droplight windows that enable passengers to use the handle on the outside to leave the train at the platform the inquest heard according to BBCNews.
Investigators told Avon coroner’s court that the warning label above the window – a yellow sticker with the words, ‘Caution do not lean out of window when train is moving’ – was not a sufficient deterrent.
The inquest heard that after the death of a passenger leaning out a window on a train in south London in August 2016, GWR completed a risk assessment of its droplight windows. This resulted in a plan to install enhanced warning signs with a red background by May 2018, but this had not happened by the time Roper was killed seven months later the Guardian reported.
BAC twice the drink drive limit
A few minutes after the train left Bath, Roper’s head struck an ash tree branch. A postmortem examination found Roper died from head injuries.
Toxicology tests found she had a blood alcohol level of 142mg in 100ml of blood, meaning the passenger was nearly twice the drink-drive limit.
The inquest heard that the tree had undergone inspections in 2009 and 2012 as part of a five-year cycle by Network Rail, which was responsible for the management of trackside vegetation. The tree had been growing on the embankment five metres from the track.
The branch that killed Roper had by February 2017 fallen towards the railway line and was resting on a chainlink fence at the top of the embankment. Further specialist inspections might have prevented the tragedy, an expert told the hearing.
Following five days of evidence, the inquest jury returned a narrative conclusion by a majority. They said: ‘Bethan died as a result of an incident onboard a train travelling from Bath to Bristol Temple Meads on 1 December 2018.
‘Bethan boarded the train under the influence of alcohol. Despite a warning sign she leant out of a droplight window while the train was moving. She was struck by a stem of a tree sustaining a fatal head injury.’
Maria Voisin, the senior coroner for Avon, said she would not be making a preventing future deaths report after hearing that the Mk 3 coaches, first introduced in the 1970s, were being phased out across the network.
Roper, from Penarth, south Wales, worked for the Welsh Refugee Council, a charity, and was the chair of Young Socialists Cardiff.
A spokesperson for GWR said: ‘Bethan’s death was tragic incident and our thoughts remain with her family and friends as they once again recall the terrible loss suffered that evening.
‘At the time of the incident we were in the process of phasing out high-speed trains using droplight windows from our fleets, replacing them with modern, safer Intercity Express trains with sealed windows. This work was completed last year.
‘We and the wider rail industry are committed to learning the lessons outlined, particularly around speed of the design, review and implementation of mitigations.’
Reiterated, Chris Pearce, from Network Rail, ‘Safety has and always will be our first priority. Our thoughts remain with Beth’s family and friends.
‘We urge passengers and the public to take care around trains and railway tracks.
‘We have worked with the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, the Office of Rail and Road and the Coroner throughout this process and will continue to work with our industry partners to improve safety.’