Woman died 'after sticking head out of GWR train window'

Friends stuck their heads out the window of a train when one was killed after being hit by an overhanging branch.

Bethan Roper, 28, suffered fatal head injuries while a passenger on the Great Western Railway (GWR) was traveling at a speed of around 120 km / h.

Miss Roper was returning to South Wales from a day out with friends doing Christmas shopping in Bath.

The Avon Coroner Court heard that Miss Roper and her three friends Elizabeth Winstone Evans, Chanelle Hagland and Madeleine Owens boarded the train at Bath Spa Station on the evening of December 1, 2018.

The GWR London Paddington to Exeter service used wagons with droplight windows so that passengers could use the handle on the outside when they had to get off the train at the platform.

Investigators told the investigation that the warning sign above the window, a yellow sticker that said, “Be careful, don’t lean out of the window when the train is moving,” was not a sufficient deterrent.

Miss Roper was fatally injured just minutes after the train left Bath when her head was struck by an ash branch growing in the land beside the line.

UK Traffic Police’s Pc Kate Aldred was speaking to Miss Hagland when the train arrived at Bristol Temple Meads Station shortly after the incident and taking written notes of the conversation.

“The train had gone five or six minutes when Miss Evans opened the pull-down window on the door,” said Pc Aldred.

“Miss Evans leaned her head slightly out of the window for about 30 seconds and then said something like ‘girls try it’.

“Miss Evans put her head back in the car and then Miss Roper immediately stepped forward and stuck her head right out the window.

“Miss Hagland was sitting on the floor near Miss Roper’s legs.

“Miss Roper’s head must have been open for only five seconds when Miss Hagland heard the sound of an impact.

“Miss Roper fell backwards towards Miss Hagland and caught Miss Roper.

“Miss Roper then fell forward and slumped to the floor.”

Miss Hagland later said in a statement to police that they were not “drunk or disordered” when they boarded the train.

“We’ve all had a few drinks, but we’re used to drinking that way.

“By then we were all sober and drunk sober,” she told the officers.

Miss Hagland described the minutes before the incident and said they were all in the lobby of the train as it was busy and her friend Miss Evans pulled down the window on the door when it was hot.

“Lizzy just leaned her head out the window and her hair was blowing,” said Miss Hagland.

“I think Lizzy was hot and I didn’t even know those windows were going down.

“I heard Lizzy say,” look at these girls “and when she brought Beth in, she stormed past and did exactly the same, and she stuck her head out just a little more than Lizzy.

“As far as I can remember, the shoulders were still in the car.

“I was about to get up when the branch hit her head.

“It was pretty straight away … five seconds.

“She took two steps back and tripped and fell right into me and fell forward.”

An autopsy revealed that Miss Roper had died of head injuries.

Toxicological tests showed that she had a blood alcohol level of 142 mg in 100 ml of blood, which means that she was almost twice the limit for alcohol consumption.

Miss Roper, of Penarth, South Wales, worked for the Welsh Refugee Council charity and was chair of the Young Socialists Cardiff.

The hearing continues.


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