Woman, 28, killed after split-second decision on train after day of drinking

A woman on her way home from a Christmas market died after she stuck her head out of a train travelling at 120km/h, striking her head on a passing tree branch.

Bethan Roper, a 28-year-old from Penarth, in south Wales in the UK, boarded the train in Bath at about 10pm on December 1, 2018, after a day of shopping and drinking with friends.

The charity worker, who was nearly twice the legal drink-drive limit, and her friends grouped together near the busy train’s doors as the closest carriage was full, according to a Rail Accident Investigation Branch [RAIB] report published on Thursday.

Bethan Roper, a 28-year-old from Penarth, in south Wales, boarded the train in Bath at about 10pm. Source: Facebook

At least one of Ms Roper’s friends placed their head out of the window briefly before the 28-year-old followed suit.

“Witness evidence indicates that the passenger had her head out of the window for a few seconds before falling back into the vestibule having sustained a serious head injury,” according to the report.

“A number of passengers, some with extensive medical qualifications and experience, attended and did all they could to help the passenger.”

Ms Roper, who worked for the Welsh Refugee Council was later pronounced dead at Bristol Temple Meads station.

Pictured is the tree Ms Roper struck seconds after placing her head out of the train window. Source: RAIB

During a lengthy investigation, the RAIB found that while the warning signs placed above the windows are in accordance with industry guidance, they do not fully inform passengers about the potential risks.

“The signs relating to not leaning out of the window was the smallest of four signs on or around the door,” according to the report.

“The wording used, in particular the word ‘caution’, suggests that leaning out of the train window is something that may be done safely if a degree of care or precautions are taken.”

Great Western Railway had planned to upgrade the signage by May 2018, but the changes came to a halt after two employees tasked with the job left before it could be completed.

During a lengthy investigation, the RAIB found that while the warning signs placed above the windows are in accordance with industry guidance, they do not fully inform passengers about the potential risks. Source: RAIB

The signage has since been updated.

The report also found that the Network Rail had not conducted a tree inspection in the area since 2009.

While the investigation did reveal that Ms Roper, a graduate of Cardiff Metropolitan University, had alcohol in her system at the time, it was stated that “the actual effect on the passenger is unknown.”

Ms Roper’s family have since founded The Bethan Roper Trust for Refugees in her memory.

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