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Woman killed by tree branch while leaning out of train window below warning sticker

The Independent logo The Independent 2019-01-11 Tom Embury-Dennis
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A woman was killed by a tree branch while leaning out of a train window below a warning sticker, accident investigators have found.

Bethan Roper died on the Great Western Railway train near Twerton, Bath, on 1 December.

The 28-year-old charity worker was returning home to south Wales from a Christmas shopping trip in London with friends when the accident occurred.

Her head was out of the window of a door on the train, which was travelling at 85mph, when it was struck by the branch.

A report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) found a yellow "caution" label above the door said, "Do not lean out of window when train is moving".

The door was fitted with an opening window to enable passengers to access the handle, which was on the outside.

Roper was on board the London Paddington to Exeter service.

The incident happened at 10.04pm and she was pronounced dead at Bristol Temple Meads station shortly after 10.10pm.

Roper worked for the Welsh Refugee Council charity and was chairperson of Young Socialists Cardiff.

Her father, Adrian Roper, 63, released a statement after her death saying his daughter "enjoyed life to the full whilst working tirelessly for a better world".

The RAIB said its full investigation would examine the measures in place to "control the risks from persons leaning out of train windows, including the threat from vegetation".

In August 2016, railway enthusiast Simon Brown, 24, was killed while leaning out of the window of a Gatwick Express train near Balham, south London. His head hit a signal gantry at 61mph.

In its report, the RAIB noted that a yellow warning sticker on the door was in a "cluttered environment" among other information signs, and recommended that train companies should do more to stop passengers from putting body parts out of windows.

In November, public sector company Network Rail was asked by rail minister Andrew Jones to set out a plan for how it will do more to protect biodiversity during tree felling.

This followed criticism over the amount of trees being cut down in some areas.

Additional reporting by PA

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