Train driver speaks of death ordeal

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A train driver has spoken of his helplessness in the moments leading up an accident that left a mother-of-two fatally injured.

An inquest heard that Patricia Hill, 62, had deliberately walked in front of the oncoming train at the notorious Rylands Crossing last year.

Anthony Cooper had been driving the 8.30am Manchester Piccadilly to Blackpool train on December 6 last year and had just pulled out of Chorley station when the tragedy occurred.

He said he blew the train's whistle at the whistle board sign just before Rylands Crossing close to All Seasons Leisure Centre, then again because he could see a female pedestrian stood at the gate of the crossing.

He said: "As I was approaching the crossing, she just walked straight out in front of the train. She walked briskly and stood in front of the train. I hit the horn and braked continuously, then just on impact she looked at me."

Deputy coroner Derek Baker recorded a verdict that Mrs Hill, of Hartwood Park, killed herself. She died from multiple injuries consistent with being struck by a moving train.

Her husband John, who has been campaigning for safety improvements at the crossing, told the inquest that although his wife had been anxious, he did not accept she was suicidal.

He said: "The railway crossing at which she died had at least six incidents of the same nature in the past seven years. One of the reasons Pat isn't here today is because someone in authority hasn't acted on the evidence there and made that crossing safe."

Mr Baker said he believed she had not planned to commit suicide because there was no note or letter

Mrs Hill, who worked with special needs people for 15 years for Lancashire County Council, had just days earlier been taken home by the police after being found by a passer-by standing at the side of the track at Rylands Crossing.

She had been off work for some months and was under the care of a mental health team from Lancashire Care NHS Trust for anxiety and depression and was on prescribed medication.

The inquest heard she had once in the summer had 'thoughts of killing herself' but had later discounted them as silly and was reported as being very positive.

Mr and Mrs Hill had been happily married for 38 years and had two sons, Robert and Andrew, who were with their father at the inquest.

The deputy coroner said he believed that Mrs Hill's condition fluctuated from being down to improving and optimistic.

"Her death was a tragedy. She had the absolute and total support of her husband and the unswerving support of her family. Mr Hill, you were quite devoted to her and you have nothing to reproach yourself for," he added.

"The dangers of this type of unmanned pedestrian crossing are well known already and there have been fatal accidents at this crossing before this occasion, but I accept the driver's evidence supported by the medical experts and conclude she took her own life."