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Accident verdict on crossing death

PUBLISHED: 09:33 09 July 2008 | UPDATED: 14:35 14 July 2010

Family and friends of a woman who died after being struck by a train near Attleborough station have made fresh calls for safety improvements at the site of the tragedy.

Family and friends of a woman who died after being struck by a train near Attleborough station have made fresh calls for safety improvements at the site of the tragedy.

At yesterday's inquest into the death of Helen Thomson, who was also known as Margaret, jurors heard how the 83-year-old died when hit by a train travelling from Mansfield to Norwich as she crossed the Leys Lane pedestrian rail crossing on February 13, close to her Leys Lane home.

Her friend Shirley Marsters told the inquest it had been foggy and they were returning from a daily walk with their dogs.

After the inquest, Mrs Marsters said: “I pray some-thing will be done with those cross-ings because so many children cross there every day. We did not know the train was there until it was too late.”

Network Rail worker David Allen told the inquest he heard the train and sounded a horn to warn rail workers, and then he saw the two women.

“She came so close to making it. The train just caught her on her back I think,” he said.

The driver's statement said he had sounded his whistle to warn rail workers about 200 yards from the crossing. At the same time he saw Mrs Thomson and Mrs Marsters about 200 to 400 yards away. He feared they would not make the crossing and applied the brakes before hearing a loud bang.

PC Christopher Manders, from British Transport Police, said the train was travelling within the 75mph speed limit and that the crossing was in good order.

A statement from the Railway Accident Investigation Branch said it would not be making any safety recommendations as a result of the accident.

Greater Norfolk coroner William Armstrong said there had been no breach of regulations, but Network Rail should study the evidence to decide if additional safety measures were appropriate. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

A statement issued afterwards from Mrs Thomson's partner Ted and niece Pilar Howell described Mrs Thomson as a very special lady who was always cheerful and very active.

It continued: “She was by no means a frail old lady who simply didn't have time to get out of the way. While we appreciate the tragic event was an accident, we hope that Margaret's death acts as an indication to the dangers and potential inadequacies that exist at these unmanned railway points.”

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