Teenagers’ deaths were an accident’

PUBLISHED: 05:57 08 February 2007 | UPDATED: 10:10 31 May 2010

Charlie and Olivia

Charlie and Olivia

THE fathers of the two girls killed at Elsenham station have hit out at Network Rail for serious failings following last week s inquest. The four-day hearing at County Hall in Chelmsford concluded on Friday, when the jury recorded a verdict of accident

THE fathers of the two girls killed at Elsenham station have hit out at Network

Rail for "serious failings" following last week's inquest.

The four-day hearing at County Hall in Chelmsford concluded on Friday, when the jury recorded a verdict of accidental death for 14-year-old Olivia Bazlinton and 13-year-old Charlotte Thompson, known as Charlie.

The girls were killed instantly when they were hit by a high-speed through train at the station on December 3, 2005.

On the first day of the inquest, the jury heard from John Rossiter-Summers, who had been driving the Cambridge-bound train that the girls were believed to have been crossing the line to board.

He said he saw Charlie open the gate, unaware the Express train was heading towards the station.

"It looked like she was going to cross in front of me," he said. "I made eye contact with her, shook my head and mouthed 'don't bother, I'll wait'."

Mr Rossiter-Summers said he saw the Stansted service pass by and realised as he pulled out of the station the train had hit the girls.

Essex PC Alex Southgate, one of the first officers at the scene, said Charlie's body had been found next to the Stansted platform and that Olivia's was found several hundred yards down the line.

On Wednesday the jury was taken to the station to see for themselves where the accident happened.

And on Thursday, Charlie's grandmother Emily Thompson, 83, spoke at the inquest. She said Elsenham was "a toy station".

She said her "breath was taken away by the speed of the train going past" when she visited the station after her granddaughter's death.

However, the jury also heard from John Tilly, an expert on level crossings with Her Majesty's Rail Inspectorate, who said "the crossing worked as it was designed to do".

Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray concluded the inquest saying she would write to Her Majesty's Rail Inspectorate asking for an audit of the level crossing safety system.

She also urged more co-operation between railway companies to highlight the risks of railway crossings.

Fathers respond to outcome

OLIVIA'S father Chris Bazlinton has said he will investigate more dangerous crossings in the country with Reg Thompson and Olivia's mum Tina Hughes .

Mr Bazlinton, who admitted the outcome of the inquest was no surprise, said: "Only last Monday there was a near miss at the station. If locking gates had been in place in December 2005, Liv and Charlie would be alive today.

"This is about safety - we do not want anybody else to go through what we have."

Mr Thompson agreed saying: "The jury was instructed what to record by the coroner. It was just a formality really.

"It's been difficult, but through the inquest it became clear that mistakes had been made and those mistakes led, at least in part, to the deaths of Charlie and Olivia."

However, he felt it was a good thing that the coroner demanded audits of the rail crossing inspection system.

Network Rail spokesman Chris Rumfitt said: "The deaths of Olivia Bazlinton and Charlotte Thompson were a tragedy, and they will never be forgotten.

"Since the tragedy, a number of changes have been made: the train operator has installed a second ticket machine; permanent CCTV cameras are in place; the British Transport Police maintain a higher presence at the crossing; and Network Rail held a local campaign to raise awareness of how to use the crossing correctly and safely.

"We have recommended a footbridge be installed at the station along with a locking system for the wicket gates."

Olivia's funeral will be at 11.30am Newport Church on Saturday February 24. Everyone is welcome.

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