Mother saw toddler killed by train

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The Independent Online

A two-year-old boy was killed by a train after his mother saw him run on to a railway line, police said today.

Johnny Hall, who would have been three next month, toddled on to a level crossing in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, yesterday as his mother tried in vain to reach him, officers said.

Johnny's aunt, Eileen Connors, said today: "No blame is placed on anyone. There is only deep sorrow."

Police said the toddler's uncle and four-year-old brother were also nearby when he was hit by a train travelling from Lincoln to Peterborough.

The crossing is guarded by metal railing gates which pull open.

Police said they were not sure how the toddler had managed to negotiate his way past the gate and adjoining fence in order to get on to the line.

They said experts from the Department of Transport's Rail Accident Investigation Branch had begun an inquiry and the gates would form part of investigations.

Johnny was struck by the train at about 4pm.

Locals said the path approaching the crossing bordered a housing development and was regularly used by children making their way to and from a nearby school.

They said concerns had been raised about the safety of the crossing.

One man who lives near the crossing but did not want to be named said it was not uncommon for children to get on to the line and "mess around".

He said he was not surprised that there had been a tragic accident.

A traveller site is situated yards from the crossing.

Police Superintendent Paul Brogden said Johnny lived in Peterborough and was part of the travelling community.

He said the youngster had been visiting the traveller site near the crossing with members of his family when the accident happened.

"It seems that Johnny made his way down the path towards the line and then got on to the crossing and was hit by a train," said Mr Brogden.

"His mother followed him down the path and tried to stop him getting on to the line - but to no avail.

"Tragically she saw the accident and she is obviously distraught.

"Johnny died at the scene."

He added: "At this stage we cannot say how he got past the gate and fence and on to the line.

"But this would appear to be a tragic accident. There is no suggestion of negligence here.

"We do have problems with level crossings used by vehicles but it is very unusual for anyone to be killed on a level crossing approached on foot."

Mr Brogden said the train had been travelling at about 60mph.

He said the train driver had seen the child and sounded the horn but was unable to stop.

Mr Brogden said a report would be prepared for the coroner, and it would be for a coroner to make any safety recommendations.

He said he was unable to discuss any possible concerns about safety on the line because the investigation was at such an early stage.

Ms Connors said Johnny's death was a "tragic accident".

"He was full of life and loved by everyone who knew him," she said.

"We truly believe that Johnny is now a little angel in heaven."

Police closed the crossing and rail services were suspended following the accident.

Mr Brogden said the train was carrying about 20 passengers who were kept on board and delayed for more than two hours.