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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Johnny , 2, Killed By Train.. After Rail Bosses Disable Lock

A TWO-year-old boy was killed by a train on a level crossing after rail chiefs disabled a gate's safety lock.

Little Johnny Hall died instantly in front of his horrified family after pulling open the pedestrian gate.

His mum and uncle tried frantically to stop him but could only watch as he ran on to the tracks. The train driver sounded his horn but was unable to stop and hit him head-on.

Police last night confirmed that Network Rail had recently changed the lock on the 3ft steel gate. Locals said a disc was fitted to the handle to prevent it being bolted shut.

Chief Insp Bob Munn, of British Transport Police, said: "We asked about the lock as soon as we got here.

"It was sealed off by Network Rail so people on the track could push it open quickly if a train was coming."

The Office of Rail Regulation said the gate was altered to open more easily for pedestrians and cyclists.

A spokesman said: "It was proving difficult to open the gate on the other side once they were inside the tracks.

"It was felt it was better to revert to a push and self-closing mechanism. When we last inspected we felt the crossing met our standards.

"But there is obviously an issue with children. We will be looking to see if changes need to be made."

A spokesman said Network Rail was "deeply shocked". He added: "The crossing met all our safety regulator's requirements."

Johnny's distraught mum Elizabeth Connors, 28, was last night being comforted by relatives after Monday's tragedy at Peakirk, near Peterborough, Cambs.

The lad's aunt Eileen Connors issued a family statement saying: "This was a tragic accident that took the life of a cherished little boy. Johnny is now a little angel in heaven. Everyone that knew him is devastated. No blame is placed, only deep sorrow."

Mother Elizabeth saw the horror with Johnny's brother Paddy, four, and uncle Jim, 18.

Her cousin Kathleen Connors, 45, said: "Paddy is stunned, all he can say is, 'A train killed Johnny'. It's horrific."

Police are treating the tragedy as an accident. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch has launched a probe.

Shocked Chris Bazlinton - whose daughter Olivia, 14, was killed on a level crossing in 2005 - slammed Network Rail for changing the gate.

Chris, 61, of Farnham, Essex, said: "There are no excuses. Taking off the latch is appalling.

"The ultimate aim is to get rid of level crossings and provide footbridges instead. As long as gates are left unlocked there are going to be deaths."

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