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Child faced with ‘life-threatening’ danger after nearly falling through toilet floor

An incident in June 2017 which saw a child nearly fall through the missing floor of a train toilet could have been life-threatening, says the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB).

The accident occurred on a South Devon Railway (SDR) train while a mother and her three-year-old child were travelling from Totnes to Buckfastleigh, with the vehicle reaching around 20mph.

This week’s report from the safety investigator explains that the child opened the door to go into the toilet and would have fallen through the missing floor onto the equipment and track below if not for his mother catching his arm.

Inspectors found that repairs had been carried out on the train in April, forcing engineers to remove the flooring panel in order to get to certain sections of the undercarriage.

Rather than replace the floor, SDR managers decided to allow the carriage back into service after securing the door to the compartment and putting signage in place.

The problem came when the door slowly became less secure over a period of time, allowing the woman and child to enter the toilet.

In the report, inspectors explain: “The risk associated with the absence of the toilet floor was not sufficiently appreciated nor adequately managed after the carriage was allowed to enter service.”

Simon French, chief inspector of rail accidents, added: “Britain’s heritage railways carry over nine million passengers every year. People are travelling for pleasure, and they don’t expect any nasty surprises during their journey.

“When a mother, enjoying a happy day out with a small child, is suddenly faced with a life-threatening hazard, it is important to find out what went wrong. A door opened – and she had to grab hold of her little boy to stop him falling through a gaping hole in the floor of the carriage.”

In response to the findings, an SDR spokesperson commented: “The SDR accepts that safety on a moving train was badly compromised on this isolated occasion and which could have resulted in serious injury to a female passenger and her young son.

“We regret that this incident took place and apologised at the time, and do so again now, to the lady and the family involved for the trauma which they suffered.

“As we have stated from the outset, something clearly went wrong as evidenced by the incident having taken place – it simply should not have happened.”

The operator said it had been working closely with the RAIB and the ORR to make the relevant necessary improvements highlighted by the investigation.

Top image: RAIB

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John Grant   02/02/2018 at 12:25

"after" in the headline should surely read "before" or "when"

Andrew Gwilt   03/02/2018 at 00:54

Hope the poor child does recover from the accident. I feel deeply sorry for the child and the mother & father.

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