Accidental death verdict announced in Philip Dawn inquest

Incident on the railway track  between Kings Mill Reservoir and Hamilton Way
Incident on the railway track between Kings Mill Reservoir and Hamilton Way

A coroner returned a verdict of accidental death today (Thursday 18th July) after a Kirkby man was killed on train lines near King’s Mill Reservoir last year.

Philip Dawn (34) of Lindley’s Lane, was killed when he was hit by a train while crossing the tracks on 2nd May 2012.

Witnesses watched in horror as Mr Dawn rode in front of the train without looking, after they heard it approaching.

While the driver of the train said that he had slammed on the emergency breaks and repeatedly sounded his horn in a frantic bid to warn Mr Dawn of the danger.

But despite concerns raised by Mr Dawn’s family and accident investigators about safety measures at the crossing, Assistant Deputy Coroner for Nottinghamshire Jane Gillespie ruled that these issues would not have prevented Mr Dawn’s death.

She said: “Mr Dawn rode directly onto the track without any concern for his own safety. He didn’t pause or look left or right before going onto the crossing.

“He didn’t react to the shouts of the young men or to the sound of the horn as the train approached. Mr Dawn had time to see the train and stop, had he looked.”

The three-day hearing at Nottingham Council House was told on Tuesday how Kirkby friends Grant Pinhold and Thomas Butler described how they had tried to warn Mr Dawn of the approaching train.

They described how they had been walking back from Mansfield and were yards from the crossing when Mr Dawn cycled past.

Mr Butler said they had parted to let Mr Dawn go past them on the footpath and had heard music coming from his headphones as he went by.

The pair then heard the rumble of a train on the line and ran frantically after Mr Dawn, shouting warnings, the inquest was told. But the pair had to watch in horror as Mr Dawn was struck by the train.

Driver Simon Thayer also told the hearing that he had repeatedly sounded his hown and slammed on the emergency breaks of the train, but that Mr Dawn had not looked up, ‘even at the moment of impact’.

Yesterday, it emerged that rail bosses had identified the King’s Mill as a safety risk as early as 2007, after train speeds at the site were increased from 40 to 60mph.

Two months prior to Mr Dawn’s death, Network Rail had drawn up plans to put a bridge over the train lines at King’s Mill, the court heard.

Following risk assessments at the site, the Office for Rail Regulation had recommended that a signal should be put in place to alert passengers of oncoming trains.

But crash investigator Christopher Davies told the hearing that the recommendations had never been implemented due to cost.

Mr Davies said that part of their ongoing investigations into the incident would look at why no additional safety precautions were put in place once the need for a bridge had been identified.

But he said that Network Rail and train operators were within their rights to balance safety recommendations with cost - particularly as the King’s Mill crossing had no significant history of near misses.

Speaking after the verdict, Mr Dawn’s sister, Tracy Hart, speaking on behalf of the family, said: “The verdict of accidental death was expected but we are dissapointed that, following the acceptance from Network Rail for the need of a bridge at the site prior to the accident, that they failed to impliment any interim safety measures such as a reduction in speed, as Philip only needed another fraction of a second to get off the crossing.

“we believe that this would have saved his life.”

Following Mr Dawn’s death, the speed at the crossing was temporarily reduced back down to 40mph, along with a raft of other safety measures, including changing the angle of the crossing to make the distance over the tracks shorter and cutting back foliage at the sides of the tracks.

Train operators have also been told to use two-tone horns in future to make them more audible, while a new alarm system has been installed at the crossing which sounds a warning when a train is around 400 metres away.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “A very early feasibility study was completed at this site, as with many others in the East Midlands, to establish if it is physically possible to construct a bridge at this site. No funding is presently available for such a structure and planning permission has not been sought.”

Pictured are emergency services staff at the scene of the accident last year.