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Train death Briton 'missed warning'

A pregnant British teacher and actor who died when her car was hit by a 200-tonne train on a level crossing in Australia clearly did not see the warning lights and bells, a coroner has concluded.

South Yorkshire assistant deputy coroner Julian Fox delivered a narrative verdict at the end of the inquest into the death of Kay Stanley, 32, who was originally from Rotherham.

Miss Stanley was driving her 37-year-old Volkswagen Beetle in the town of Tyabb, south of Melbourne, when the vehicle was hit by the train which pushed her vehicle 560ft down the line before crushing it against a platform.

She was three months pregnant at the time of the incident in January 2008 and had been planning to marry Australian Brett Vogel two months after.

Mr Fox said his conclusion was that the crossing warning lights were working at the time of the accident, and minor infringements of regulations with some signs at the crossing did not contribute to Miss Stanley's death.

He told the hearing at Sheffield's Medico-Legal Centre: "A number of different theories have been advanced by witnesses as to why Kay's car was on the crossing.

"I have not mentioned them all in my summing up and none of them seems more valid than any other.

"What is clear is that Kay did not see the warning lights that other people saw or hear the warning bells that other people heard."

The inquest heard that the crossing did not have barriers and a plan to install them had been delayed due to a problem with a gas main running near the track.

Mr Fox said: "It is entirely possible that if the boom barrier had been in place before January 28, 2008, Kay would not have died."

The inquest in Sheffield comes after a five-year campaign by Miss Stanley's mother, Gwen Bates, from Rotherham, who has never accepted that her daughter would have driven on to the line with the warning lights flashing.

Mrs Bates gave evidence at the inquest last week but was then taken ill and was not in court for the conclusion.

Mr Fox said his findings were being read to her in hospital by a coroner's officer.

The UK hearing follows an inquest in Australia in 2012.

According to reports at the time, a Victoria coroner rejected Mrs Bates's view that the level crossing's flashing lights were not operating, saying there was ''overwhelming'' evidence that as Miss Stanley approached the crossing the warning lights and bells were operating.

The Australian inquest determined that Miss Stanley was distracted when her vehicle entered the level crossing but could not determine what caused this.

Today, Mr Fox said a coroner in Victoria, Jane Hendtlass, had prepared a report considering 26 rail crossing deaths in the state and made a series of recommendations.

He said authorities in Victoria are due to respond in March, adding: "I hope and expect that those recommendations will receive careful attention from the relevant authorities in Australia."

The coroner said: "I am aware that Mrs Bates has been admitted to hospital and remains there at present. I have no doubt that the stress of Kay's death has been a major factor in Mrs Bates's recent illness. All of us very much hope she will make an early and full recovery."


From Belfast Telegraph