Mother describes rail bridge deaths

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The Independent Online

The mother of one of two girls killed by a train as they dropped stones from a railway bridge had played the same game herself as a young girl, a court was told yesterday.

Amanda Edwards, 35, of Tre'r ddol, Aberystwyth, west Wales, said she had walked across the wooden bridge with her parents and thrown stones into the river below.

She told Swansea Crown Court that the embankment – only a few feet from the railway line – where she and her husband were havinga picnic on the day the girls died was visited by her family when she was young.

Mrs Edwards and her husband, Gareth, 34, were in charge of four children and their baby, Matthew, on 29 July last year. Her daughter Sophie George, seven, and her daughter's playmate Kymberley Allcock, eight, died instantly when they were hit by a sprinter train at 60mph. Matthew Allcock, who was 11 at the time, and Christopher George, who was nine, were inches from the track.

The couple deny two joint charges of manslaughter through gross negligence.

Mrs Edwards broke down twice while describing the events leading up to the tragedy. Judge Justice Richards ordered a short adjournment to allow her to compose herself.

Earlier, Leighton Davies QC, for the prosecution, said the couple sat with their backs to the bridge. He said they let the children play unsupervised on the bridge, which crosses the Dyfi Estuary, for up to 30 minutes.

Mrs Edwards said people who lived locally had walked on the bridge for years, and her brother sometimes fished from it. "I used to play on the bridge when my parents used to take us there. I was never left there on my own, I was supervised."

Describing the moment she saw the train, she said: "I remember Christopher shouting, 'Mum!' and Matthew shouting.

"Then I turned round ... and I saw this really huge train, and Matthew and Christopher were on the bridge on the left of the railway track, and Sophie and Kymberley were on the track. I shouted for them to get off the line, and then the train hit them."

In tears, she said: "Sophie was my life, and Christopher and Matthew. My children are the most precious things in my life and I would not allow them to play on the railway line."

Earlier the jury had heard statements given by Mr Edwards, who was Sophie's stepfather, to British Transport Police detectives.

He denied giving the children permission to play on the bridge and claimed they had only been out of sight for up to three minutes. He said the children had gone under the bridge to look for a bottle and must have walked up the other side.

The trial continues today.