Govia Thameslink fined £1m for death of man who was killed when he put his head out of train window

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Simon Brown was killed when he put his head out of a carriage window on the Gatwick Express (Just Giving)

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has been fined £1 million over the death of a passenger who put his head out of a train carriage window.

Simon Brown, 24, from East Grinstead, West Sussex, suffered catastrophic injuries when his head hit a signal gantry as he leaned out of a Gatwick Express train travelling at 61mph towards Wandsworth Common station in south London.

Train operator GTR, which runs the service, pleaded guilty to a health and safety breach at a previous hearing over Mr Brown's death on August 7, 2016.

Sentencing the company at Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday, Judge Jeffrey Pegden QC ordered the firm to pay a £1 million fine.

It was also ordered to pay £52,267 in costs.

The court heard how railway enthusiast Mr Brown was travelling on a Class 442 train when he put his head out of a window, intended for use by conductors.

Judge Pegden said: "Simon Brown appears to have put his head through the droplight window of the train where it was struck by track side gantry.

Govia Thameslink Railway has been fined £1 million over Mr Brown's death (PA)

"Tragically he died as a result of the injuries sustained and all that could be done was done to save him."

During Mr Brown's inquest in 2017, Dr Shirley Radcliffe said there was "no doubt" that his head was out of the window.

But she said it was "not possible" with the lack of CCTV to know how he came to have his head out of the window and whether it was voluntarily or involuntarily.

Mr Brown, from East Grinstead, West Sussex, was found by a fellow passenger on the train floor after he had been struck.

Judge Pegden said there was no-one on the train to monitor the use of the window at the time of the incident.

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He said while there was a sticker on the door warning passengers against leaning out, it was "jumbled" around other notices.

"The signage around the window was confusing," he said.

The court heard that the gap between the window and the gantry was no more than 260mm.

Judge Pegden said no risk assessment was carried out that might have identified the droplight window risk.

"This was a tragic corporate blindspot in what is otherwise a well-run organisation," Judge Pegden said.

"Significant efforts had not been made to address the risk."

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) told the court that the risks associated with droplight windows should have been identified by a suitable risk assessment, and control measures introduced accordingly. However, GTR failed to take the appropriate action.

Mr Brown was on a Gatwick Express train travelling at 61mph towards Wandsworth Common station in south London (Getty)

In a statement issued by the ORR after the hearing, Mr Brown's family said: "The family thanks the Judge for recognising that Simon's "needless and untimely death" was a 'direct result' of GTR's failure to discharge its duty to every passenger on the Gatwick Express.

"Irrespective of the penalty imposed we hope, as a result of our tragedy, that operating companies up and down the country will take their responsibilities to the travelling public more seriously."

After the hearing Ian Prosser, the Office of Rail and Road's director of safety and HM Chief Inspector of Railways, said: "Our thoughts remain with Simon Brown's family and friends at this particularly difficult time.

"It is to GTR's credit that they pleaded guilty to the offence and spared the family the pain of a protracted court case.

"We are also pleased that the court recognised the severity of the offence and reflected that in the sentence passed.

"There are still some trains with droplight windows operating on the network and we have written to operators instructing them to take immediate action to prevent a similar tragedy happening again.”

GTR chief executive Patrick Verwer said: "I am very sorry for the death of Mr Brown and the deep distress this tragic loss has caused his family and friends."

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