Guest post: "My son is scarred for life - I wish I'd warned him about railway safety"
As a new report reveals that railway trespass doubles over the summer holidays, Siobhan Hubbard says her son's life changed forever after a moment of madness
Posted on: Wed 27-Jul-16 09:32:28
(22 comments )
My son was 16 years old when he received an electric shock on railway tracks near our house. He had just finished his GCSEs and had his whole future ahead of him. Two years on, he is scarred for life, all for the sake of some quick fun playing on the railway.
New research from Network Rail and the British Transport Police has shown that children are twice as likely to play on the railway over the summer holidays. It may sound like something your children would never do, but warning your children about railway safety is vital. It's a serious conversation I wish I'd had.
We found out what had happened when my daughter's phone rang and it was a call from my son's friend. He was screaming and crying, and had called to tell us that my son had been electric-shocked. My daughter ran down the stairs to tell us but it took a long time for her to get the story out. How on earth could my son have had an electric shock? Why was he on the railway? I had no idea how on earth that could have happened.
We rushed to the railway line and there were 10 people working on him. I was there, but couldn't get to him. I felt so far away. The police had to keep giving me messages, but they couldn't tell us anything. I later found out that he had received an electric shock of over 25,000 volts. He had been with two friends and they had been egging each other on to climb up the trains and run on the tracks to run across them. He was the fastest, so he made it first. Now, his life hung in the balance.
Children don't realise the dangers that railways pose until we explain them. They think the electricity is turned off when trains aren't running, or that if they look first they will be okay.
I wanted to go with him in the ambulance but I couldn't. We were told to go to Coventry Hospital and were taken by staff straight to the family room. I thought they were going to tell me my son was dead.
What we found out was that he had been taken to the burns unit at Birmingham. As we made our way there, I saw an ambulance with its lights flashing and I was convinced it was him. It was like being in a terrible nightmare. But it was real life.
We waited for two hours at Birmingham Hospital while doctors tried to remove the burnt skin from his body. His face was swollen and burnt and his auburn hair had been singed and blackened. Looking at him, after they'd shaved his head so they could use skin grafts on his badly burnt body, my heart broke. He didn't look like my little boy anymore.
The doctor explained that we might lose him at any moment. We didn't. But for the next two weeks he was sedated, and it was three weeks before he was able to talk.
As a mother you do everything you can to protect your children. A moment of madness and what seemed like innocent fun will impact my son for the rest of his life. He has scars all over his body and it has impacted his school life. Two years later and he still has to have a considerable amount of surgery, and just recently he has had another round of operations and skin grafts. He still has physiotherapy and wears hoodies and a bandana to cover his scars, even on a hot day. He no longer likes going out in the day.
Children don't realise the dangers that railways pose until we explain them. They think the electricity is turned off when trains aren't running, or that if they look first they will be okay, even though trains can run at 140mph. The message for children is clear. If you are on the railway, you are on dangerous ground.
Please make sure you have that conversation and that your children are aware of the dangers this summer.
By Siobhan Hubbard
I am so sorry Siobhan, your poor boy
We have had the conversation in the past and I'll reiterate today
Thank you for sharing such painful event and very best wishes for your son's continuing recovery
When I was young
a loooong time ago there used to be very scary public service ads (so on the BBC too) about the dangers of going on the railway line.
Certainly scared the shit out of me.
Maybe there needs to be similar campaigns again - not just on TV but on Social Media too.
In the 90s at school we used to be shown videos about railways, building sites etc (think it was called SPLAT or similar) it terrified us. None of my dcs have had similar but it is something I will talk to them about after reading this
This is awful, so sorry for your son. I work in a high school near an open level crossing and we have had two fatalities this year - both suicides, both ex pupils. Railways are so dangerous.
Forgive me if this is inappropriate/too ironic in your situation but this is the best railway safety message we've seen and used with our pupils.
What a heartbreaking situation all round but thank you for sharing your story think it will make a huge difference- I used to love near a traintrack and we used to always be messing around near it I think if I'd have seen something like this back then I would have been more careful.
All the best to your ds
This is so sad - I remember when I was at school we used to have assemblies about the danger of railway lines, which put the fear of God into me, to the extent I'm terrified going across a footpath over a nearby railway line even now.
If anyone wants to show their older kids a fairly traumatising video the one at the bottom of this page
Is good and unexpected (apparently the final person didn't die, "just" paralysed, and gave permission for the video to educate)
And the old public service ads are all on youtube as well...
My God, Its. I can't believe he survived that
Siobhan, thank you for sharing your story. I'll definitely be talking to 15yo ds tonight.
I'm a train driver myself, only last week I came into a station and someone was on the track retrieving a football. I just stopped as he jumped back up onto the platform, he was very very lucky. Risked his life for a ball that costs less than a tenner! Crazy
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
I remember those public safety films from the '70s. They were terrifying - but effective.
When I was in Germany with my then-boyfriend, I was quite amazed that the railway in his village was not fenced at all, and he wanted us to start a countryside walk by going along it (not electrified by third rail or overhead cables, though.) We settled on crossing the railway not at a proper crossing, and I was trying not to cry the whole time, because of the fear. I was in my 30s...
I hope your son carrys on recovering and finds life easier as time goes by.
Thank you for posting this, it's such an important public safety issue.
I'm so sorry your son was so badly injured and I wish your family the best as you continue to deal with the aftermath.
This video - shared by Itsallgoingtobefine has been shared on my Facebook today, I have shared it to my friends too. Such an important message. Teenagers often think they are invincible.
When I was at school in the late 70's and 80's we had police officers come to our school, show us a video and reiterate the dangers. We were "train trained" Haven't heard of this happening in schools for a long time.
My brother works on the railways and has seen the aftermath of someone who was hit by a train. This person very clearly did not survive, and my brother saw things that day that will stay with him forever.
My cousin and his friend died. They were mitching off school and were walking along the tracks. They probably thought they were safe as there weren't many trains and it was a long straight track in the countryside, they probably thought they'd hear it coming. It was a windy day, they didn't hear it until it was too late. They were both 15. The poor train driver was on his first trip after being off work for over a year following a similar incident, he never worked again. So yes, more education on the dangers would be good, those 70s public information films have stayed with me for life.
My friend Sarah died 20 years ago when we were 15. We had all been "train trained" but they believed the power was off on that siding and she touched the live third rail by accident. It killed her. Such a waste.
Just to add I am a secondary teacher and I regularly talk about Sarah. Both the dangers of train tracks and the more common dangers of drinking (the reason they went on the track in the first place) and not looking out for each other when drunk. I like to think it's part of her legacy and all the pupils I've told about Sarah have listened. Especially as she was their age and my friend.
Just read about the 3rd rail system and it sounds bloody dangerous. I didn't realise how dangerous (we have overhead wires where I live and I have to cross the train tracks every day) will definitely be extra wary when we're in the UK as I've got used to being able to cross wherever.
Thank you for sharing your son's story. I will take the time to have this conversation with my boy tonight as a result.
You can't cross just wherever in the UK, though, Natsku - railways are usually fenced off with notices about big fines for trespass. You do get pedestrian crossings, but they're clearly marked and tell you to stop, look and listen. Third rails have gaps where these crossings are (and at road level crossings) - and also where there are known badger crossing routes, going by what they told us in the mid-'80s when they were installing the third rail on the line down to Weymouth and came into school to warn us all about it. Also, some lines have overhead lines, and some are still not electrified at all - they're currently working on the line to Wales, I think. But mostly, where paths cross railways, there will be a bridge or subway.
Scottish people get caught out by the danger of the 3rd rail. With the exception of Glasgow's
small and perfectly formed subway, all our electrified lines are overhead. Which pose their own dangers
That's good that they're fenced off then EBearhug. No fences round ours but I just realised today that there's no overhead wires either so they're not electrified at all so not so dangerous, except for being hit by a train (my OH lost a friend that way).
A worrying trend in recent years is teenagers taking selfies on train tracks.