Bethan Roper tragically died after putting her head out of a train window last December
A woman who died after leaning out of a train window and hitting her head on a tree branch was nearly twice the legal drink-drive limit, an investigation found.
Bethan Roper, 28, suffered fatal injuries while on her way back from a Christmas shopping trip in Bath, Somerset in December 2018.
The charity worker, from Penarth, Wales, was pronounced dead after arriving at Bristol Temple Meads station following the accident.
An inquest was opened into her death shortly after and adjourned pending several expert reports.
Today, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) published its findings into the devastating event.
The 35-page document lists a series of recommendations and key points – including a previously unseen toxicology report.
The report shows the stump of the branch of the tree which Ms Roper is believed to have hit
An aerial photo shows the branch sticking out over the track. A report found the line had not been inspected since 2009
Ms Roper, 28, was travelling to Bristol on her way home to Penarth, Wales from Bath
The report states: ‘The toxicology report concluded that the passenger’s blood contained 142 milligrams of ethanol per 100 millilitres.
‘This is nearly twice the UK legal driving limit of 80 milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood.
‘It is generally recognised that this would cause a level of intoxication in the average social drinker which may affect their co-ordination and judgement. However, the actual effect on the passenger involved is unknown.’
The report also noted that Network Rail had not undertaken a tree inspection on the stretch of track where the accident happened since 2009.
This meant the branch was close enough for a passenger leaning out of a window to come into contact with it.
It is thought that Bethan had been visiting the Christmas market in Bath with friends on December 1 before she boarded the train home at around 10pm.
A picture of the train involved shows how low the windows on the doors can go
The report found the sign was too small, not strongly worded enough and should be red
The report states: ‘The RAIB is satisfied that one of the group of friends opened the window and at least one other friend leant out of the window before the passenger who was injured did so.
‘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.’
The RAIB recognised that a sign warning passengers not to put their head out of the window could have been clearer.
It found that 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.
It added that the use of a yellow background to the sign is a recognised characteristic of a warning sign as opposed to the more appropriate use of a red background to convey danger.
The report concluded that sign, fitted in 2007, may also have been too small.
Speaking previously, Bethan’s dad Adrian said: ‘All of us who knew Bethan have been very privileged. She was beautiful in every way. Her goodness and fullness of spirit will live on in our hearts and actions.’
A graphic in the report shows how the tree grew from a stump over 20 years
The report also features this photo of the tree branch sticking out of undergrowth
Four recommendations were made based on the report’s findings and two ‘learning points’ were advised.
It said: ‘One recommendation is addressed to operators of mainline passenger trains, including charter operators, and seeks to minimise the likelihood of passengers leaning out of droplight windows when a train is away from stations.
‘A second recommendation, is addressed to operators of heritage railways and seeks to improve their management of the risks associated with passengers leaning out vehicles.
‘The third recommendation is addressed to Great Western Railway and seeks to reduce the potential for hazards associated with its operations being overlooked.
‘The fourth recommendation is addressed to the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) and seeks to ensure that its advice on emergency and safety signs reflects the level of risk associated with the hazard being mitigated.
‘The learning points reinforce the importance of undertaking regular tree inspections and the value of train operators having well briefed procedures for dealing with medical emergencies on board trains.’