Monday 16 September 2019

Irishman electrocuted on London railway line alongside friend on night out, inquest hears

Paddy Bolster Photo: iDonate
Paddy Bolster Photo: iDonate

Catherine Wylie

AN Irishman who was electrocuted alongside his friend on a railway line has been described as a "spirit that brightened up the room", an inquest has heard in London.

Paddy Bolster (26) and Ben Haddon-Cave (27) were killed on railway tracks in east London on March 21 after a night out at a comedy event.

Mr Haddon-Cave, an actor and musician from London, was found on tracks adjacent to Hackney Wick station, while student Mr Bolster, from Glengarriff in County Cork, was found on top of a train adjacent to Stratford station, Poplar Coroner's Court heard.

A coroner said it is a "sorry state of affairs" that she had to adjourn the inquest into their deaths due to needing to hear more evidence from Network Rail.

Senior coroner Mary Elizabeth Hassell said she wants to hear from more people at Network Rail, as she needs to know why, after a train driver told the signal man at 1.18am about a body on top of a train, that the power was not isolated until after 5am.

Speaking to Network Rail's Anglia health and safety director Rupert Lown, the coroner said: "If the answer is that there were 10 people that each have a hand in this then 10 people need to come to court."

She added: "To be honest it's a sorry state of affairs that I have to adjourn part heard because of this."

Mr Bolster's body was not recovered from the top of the train until after 5am due to emergency services having to wait for the power lines to be turned off.

Asked if it usually takes more than four hours for power to be isolated, Robert Olatilu, an inspector at British Transport Police, said: "No."

He said he has seen power lines turned off in as little as five minutes, but added that his understanding is that the delay was due to the area being a complex junction with multiple sections.

In a written statement read out by the coroner, a Network Rail employee said it is likely that one or both of the men came into contact with or came close to the overhead lines.

Lee Patterson, a watch manager at London Fire Brigade, told the inquest he found Mr Haddon-Cave lying face down on the railway line before 1.10am.

There was no sign of life, he said.

Mr Patterson told the inquest about a hole in a fence near the track which was "big enough for a person to get through".

He said the gap in the fence had "a clear path" leading to it and may have been used in the past by people "cutting across the railway line for whatever reason".

The coroner said she also wants to hear more from Network Rail about the gap in the fence.

"Not only was it big enough for an adult to go through but there was a well worn track," she said.

Mr Bolster's girlfriend Sunita Edirisooriya described him as generous, thoughtful and caring, in a statement read by the coroner.

"When I first met Paddy it was clear that it was his spirit that brightened up the room," she said.

The coroner read out a statement on behalf of Mr Haddon-Cave's family in which they said he was not a "train surfer".

The statement said: "We believe that he has been depicted as some sort of reckless train surfer, but that couldn't be further from the truth."

His family, who said they have been "blindsided" by his death, described him as a "gentle soul" and a "cautious person".

His family, who were in court, described him as "an incredibly loyal friend" and regarding his girlfriend, they said: "It's uplifting to know that Ben had found someone he loved so utterly."

In a statement read by the coroner, Mr Haddon-Cave's girlfriend Sylvia Gregorzko said she can only imagine the decision to go on to the railway tracks was "spontaneous" and "spur of the moment", adding that he did not routinely go on to train lines.

Ms Gregorzko organised the comedy night and in her statement she said the two men had a few drinks that night and were "tipsy".

The inquest heard a pathologist found that the alcohol in the men's blood and urine would have been an amount that would have caused severe intoxication.

The coroner apologised to the two families in court about the adjournment.

The inquest was adjourned to September 13 at St Pancras Coroner's Court.

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