A rail firm has been fined 1.2million after a 13-year-old boy suffered life-changing burns when he came into contact with a 25,000-volt overhead electricity line while taking a selfie at a Walsall railway depot.
DB Cargo UK has been hit with the eye-watering fine after the victim – who was with two friends – ‘trespassed’ into the train yard in Durham Road on June 1, 2017.
Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court heard that one of the boys climbed on top of a freight train to take a selfie when he mistakenly came into contact with either an overhead electricity cable or the current – which can jump three metres from the line to nearby objects – arced.
The boy was shocked by 25,000 volts and set on fire, leaving him with 40 per cent burns and emotional scarring that has been detrimental to his life. He spent four weeks in hospital and needed surgery every other day.
His friend also received minor burns and a broken wrist from trying to push him away from the current and was electrocuted himself.
The third was unhurt but has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
William Davis, prosecuting on behalf of the Office of Rail and Road, said an investigation found that DB Cargo UK knew the site attracted trespassers, as shown by the presence of graffiti, theft and vandalism.
And the company had even received an email from a concerned resident who highlighted the dangers their inadequate fencing posed a year before the incident, which was next to a children’s play ground, the court was told.
However, the court was later told the fence – which was described as having a ‘big gaping hole’ by the victim’s families – had not been repaired despite having the funds approved for its overhaul.
Mr Cooper QC, defending, said the company has since addressed the issues highlighted and issued their heart-felt condolences to those involved.
The company pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and District Judge, Mr Wheeler, ordered them to pay 1.2million – with £27,873.03 costs – after being convicted of one offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act on Thursday, January 9.
District judge Micheal Wheeler said ‘one of the group climbed onto one of the locomotives, which was underneath overhead line equipment, with a camera phone and intended to take a photograph of himself a top of it.’
He said: “All three boys’ families will have been living with the after-effects of this incident. Family relationships and friendships have suffered and, I fear, will continue to suffer.
“The after-effects of the incident will endure for a long time, if not the whole of the boys’ life.”
He added: “There is no issue between prosecution and defense that these three boys were trespassers – they should not have been there.”
A spokesman from DB Cargo UK outside Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court said: “DB Cargo UK would like to once again extend its deepest sympathies to the injured children, their families and the local Wolverhampton community, within which the company plays an important role.
“Trespass on the railway continues to be a national problem and we are committed to playing a lead role in tackling the issue at an industry level.
“The company has taken the opportunity to review and enhance its site security policies and procedures to ensure that the high standards of safety it strives to achieve are reflected across its significant property portfolio across the UK.
“We are committed to continuing with investments in fencing, signage, training and local education to ensure children and other trespassers do not access our sites.”
The sentencing comes just nine months after the company were fined £2.7 million after a separate incident where another teenager lost part of legs and fingers after being electrocuted when he and three friends got into the DB Cargo UK Tyne Yard depot near Birtley in 2014.
The company had denied health and safety breaches, but was found guilty after a trial at Newcastle Crown Court.
Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, added: “Our thoughts remain with the victims who suffered such terrible injuries, and their family and friends who have also been deeply affected.
“We welcome the sentence which shows the seriousness with which the court has taken this case, and we expect the rail industry to make sure their sites are secure and minimise the chances of a repeat of this incident.
“We hope this acts as a reminder to adults and children to stay off railway sites which can be very dangerous places.”