Bishop's Stortford: Rail Death Was "Accidental"

A train driver has spoken of his shock at seeing a teenage girl striding onto a railway line in Hertfordshire moments before she was fatally struck.

Katie Littlewood, 15, who had been on her way to a Saturday job at a charity shop, appeared to think the route was clear as she started to walked across, an inquest at Hertfordshire Coroner's Court heard. 

She died instantly of severe multiple injuries at the Johnson's Footpath Crossing in Bishop's Stortford. 

Officers who attended the scene of the accident on January 28, 2012, found a set of earphones and an iPod nano nearby, as well as a Blackberry mobile phone. 

It was not clear if Katie had been listening to music at the time but she had been exchanging text messages with friends minutes before her death, and had been discussing having her ears pierced with her sister. 

The driver of the train, travelling from Liverpool Street to Cambridge, repeatedly asked in the aftermath of the accident: "Why didn't she look?'', the inquest in Hatfield heard. 

Steven Trumm told off-duty Metropolitan Police officer Paul Hastings, a passenger on the train that morning, that Katie only turned around at the last minute, when it was too late. 

The inquest was told that Mr Trumm was "visibly shaken and in a state of shock'' as he said to the police officer: "She just walked out without looking. She's a young girl about my daughter's age, about 20 or 21. It's the second time it's happened to me.'' 

He was clear that Katie was not trying to take her own life and added: "There's no way she could have survived that.'' 

The train had been accelerating after leaving Bishop's Stortford station shortly before striking Katie. 

Mr Trumm told British Transport Police: "At the time of my approach, my speed was 55 to 60mph. I saw the female stride forward purposefully as if she had made the decision it was safe to do so.'' Katie looked to her right as the train approached to her left, the inquest heard. 

"As I sounded my horn, the female looked towards my approaching train,'' Mr Trumm said in his statement. 

"She looked shocked and then the train almost instantaneously hit her.'' 

Katie's father Simon Littlewood, attending the hearing with her 18-year-old sister Sarah, asked for the family's sympathies to be passed on to the driver, who was not present. 

Coroner Edward Thomas has told the jury the only verdict they can return is one of accidental death as he sent them out to make their findings. They are expected to return later. 

Signs at the crossing warned pedestrians it was only safe to cross when there was a green light. The system had been installed after a woman walking her dog died at the same spot in 2002. 

There was also what the coroner described as "an audible warning'', but he added: "Of course, if people have earphones they won't hear it.'' All warning systems were operating correctly at the time of Katie's accident. 

The crossing was shut at the end of 2012 and a footbridge installed in its place. Plans to build it, at a cost of up to £41 million, had been discussed following the earlier death but had not come to fruition. 

Mr Thomas described Katie to the jury as a "lovely girl'' who "was very good at music''. 

He said she was a happy teenager and that as well as her Saturday job for the British Heart Foundation, she worked with an animal charity on Sundays. 

The jury returned a unanimous verdict of accidental death after deliberating for just over an hour.