Railway enthusiast died after putting head out of train window

Simon Brown.
Simon Brown.
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An East Grinstead ‘railway enthusiast’ died after he put his head out the window of a train travelling more than 60mph, an inquest heard.

Simon Brown, 24, died after his head struck a signal gantry near Balham, in London, while travelling on the Gatwick Express in August last year.

Westminster Coroner’s Court heard the guard’s window, where Mr Brown was stood, was one of just two on the entire train which could open, despite the trains operating without guards.

The window was not meant for public use - but there was public access to it and it was already open by the time Mr Brown got to it, the inquest heard.

Mr Brown was described by his family as “train fanatic” and spent his youth volunteering at the Bluebell Railway.

A statement from his mother, Jane Street, read by the coroner said: “He was a railway man through and through.

“He was neither reckless or ignorant of the dangers of that environment.

“His enthusiasm for life was infections to everyone.”

His father Mike Brown saw him a week before his death and said: “I have never seen him so relaxed, hopeful and enthusiastic about he future.”

The inquest heard from eyewitness Kirstin Duffield who was travelling on the train with her daughter when Mr Brown was struck.

She said: “I heard a loud thud and I was aware the man in the corridor area was collapsed on the floor.”

She said there was nothing that could be done for him and the “head injury was not survivable.”

An ambulance was called and the train was moved to Wandsworth Common station.

Ms Duffield was commended for her actions on the train and thanked by members of the family for her “remarkable composure in taking control of the situation.”

The inquest also heard from Mark Young of The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB).

It found the door Mr Brown was next to when he was hit had a notice saying ‘Do not lean out of window when train is moving’.

Giving an overview on the investigation, he said: “Firstly, there was the fact his head was out the window. We don’t have any evidence as why that was the case. We don’t know.

“CCTV at Gatwick, shows as train arrived in the station inbound, somebody had opened the window as it arrived into the station.”

The inquest heard “there was a no further evidence” of what happened on the train, and Mr Young added: “There was internal CCTV on the train never downloaded and the hard disk it was recorded onto was faulty.”

Mr Young said the warning sticker was small and in “a cluttered environment”.

Colin Morris, head of health and safety at Govia Thameslink Railway which owns the Gatwick Express line, told the inquest since March this year there were no longer any rolling stock on the line which had windows which could open.

All trains with windows which could be opened by passengers have now been taken out of service and replaced by the operator since the incident, the inquest heard.

Coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe recorded a narrative verdict, stating it was not possible to know how Mr Brown came to have his head out of the window.

She said: “It is not possible, with the lack of CCTV, to know how Simon came to have his head out the window, whether he did it voluntarily or involuntarily.

“There is no doubt his head had been out of the window.

“As we have heard he was a railway enthusiast, a kind, loving, generous young man and munch loved by his family and friends.”

The inquest heard the Office for Road and Rail (ORR) in continuing to investigate the incident, and may have recommendations for Network Rail and Govia Thameslink Railway when it concludes.