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27th Oct, 2021

Boy's 2017 railway death was 'avoidable tragedy' as DIRFT operator found guilty of failing to prevent access

‘AN AVOIDABLE tragedy’ – that is how a railway inspector described the death of a ‘kind and thoughtful’ 11-year-old boy at Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal (DIRFT), after the company which runs it was found guilty of failing to prevent unauthorised access.

WH Malcom Limited was found guilty by a jury at Northampton Crown Court following the death of Harrison Ballantyne in June 2017.

Harrison, from Crick, easily gained access to the depot with his friends and was able to climb on top of a stationary freight wagon, where he received an electric shock from the overhead line.

He was pronounced dead at the scene despite efforts from paramedics.

The three-week trial heard how the Office of Rail and Road found WH Malcom had not only failed to assess the risk of unauthorised access to the terminal, but also failed to implement appropriate measures to prevent unauthorised access to a part of the site where there were frequent freight movements and overhead line equipment energised at 25,000 volts.

Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal (DIRFT).

The court also heard how the company routinely placed freight wagons under the electrified lines, enabling access to be gained in the vicinity of the high voltage cable, which would otherwise not have been accessible.

Immediately after the incident, ORR inspectors attended the site and issued WH Malcolm Ltd with an improvement notice requiring them to take steps to improve the boundary fence.

The company complied with this notice within the deadline that ORR agreed, with new fencing installed.

Ian Prosser, Chief Inspector of Railways said: “Our thoughts are with Harrison’s loved ones and family.

“The rail industry knows the dangers of the railway and must do what it can to prevent unauthorised access and in this case, WH Malcom Ltd didn’t.

“The company failed to manage the risks and prevent unauthorised access, and its approach to the management of risks had fallen far short of the standard that we expect from duty holders.

“This was an entirely avoidable tragedy. It should act as a reminder that we must do more to tackle trespass, despite the good work that has been done to educate children.”

Following the accident, Harrison’s parents paid a moving tribute to him.

They said: “Harrison was our beautiful son. In less than 12 years he filled our lives with happiness. His lively character lit up the room.

“Harrison was a kind and thoughtful boy who shared everything and always thought of others. He was a talented sportsman and had developed into a great footballer who was well-respected by his team mates.

“Harrison was an outgoing boy and loved to be active and outside exploring, climbing and getting muddy. Life was an adventure that he sought out to the full.

“Harrison is not only a son, he was a brother, grandson, great grandson, nephew, great nephew, cousin and friend.

“His cheeky smile and witty humour keeps us smiling and a huge piece of all of us has gone with him, never to return.

“His innocence and inquisitive nature led him to the railway track, stealing him from this world so soon after he arrived. We will struggle to live without him.

“Tributes have poured in and we realise now just how wide his circle of influence has reached.

“We pray that this is not the end and he is able to see in some way how much he is loved and cared for.

“Harrison, we will love and miss you always and will carry you with us forever.”

WH Malcolm will be sentenced on July 30.

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