Mother of straight-A pupil, 16, who was hit and killed by silent train as she sat on the tracks sues Network Rail for £22,000, claiming it breached its duty of care
- Milena Gagic, 16, died instantly when hit by the night train in December 2014
- Her heartbroken mother is now suing Network Rail for breaching its duty of care
- Milena was studying for her A-levels when she died and wanted to be a zoologist
A mother whose straight-A student daughter was killed at a level crossing after being hit by a ‘silent’ midnight train is now suing Network Rail over her child’s tragic death.
Milena Gagic, 16, died instantly when she was hit by the night train at the level crossing in Hipperholme, Halifax, in December 2014.
The teenager, from Halifax, West Yorkshire, who was tipped for a place at Oxford or Cambridge, and wanted to be a zoologist.
Her mother, Leanne Gagic, is now suing Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd for £22,124 for breaching its duty of care- although her barrister explained that her case is ‘not about money’.
Milena Gagic was killed after she ventured onto a railway line and was struck by a train at 55mph
Milena and her best friend, Amelia Hustwick, had gone to the crossing late at night to chat because it was ‘a nice place to hang out’, Central London County Court heard.
They sat between the train tracks, ‘laughing and giggling’ because they thought trains did not run at night.
Both girls had grown up in the local area and believed that, if any train did approach, it would sound its horn.
But since 2007, a ‘night time quiet period’ had been ushered in, barring horns between 11pm and 7am, said barrister Stephen Glyn.
Her mother is now suing Network Rail over her daughter’s death
Mrs Gagic says that Network Rail breached its duty of care in failing to properly warn people that night trains no longer sounded their horns at Hipperholme, where villagers hear the sounds of train whistles over 100 times a day.
She claims that a simple sign explaining that drivers would no longer sound their horn overnight would have saved her daughter’s life.
But Network Rail is disputing fault, denying breaching its duty, and suggesting that Milena was herself to blame.
Signs may have been ineffective as studies suggest they are frequently missed, Network Rail claimed.
Milena was studying for her A-levels when she died, said her devastated mother, having clocked up eleven A-stars at GCSE.
She dreamed of being a zoologist and ‘wanted to go to university very much,’ she added.
Barrister Mr Glyn said it was hard to see and hear approaching trains at the crossing location due to curvature of the track.
And he claimed locals such as Milena and Amelia would have been lulled into a false sense of security because train horns continued to sound during the day.
He said Network Rail had long accepted there was a risk at the crossing because ‘whistle boards’, which instruct drivers to sound their horn, were previously in place.
However, the company banned night time horn use in 2007 due to ‘noise pollution complaints’, the court heard. That curfew was rolled out across the network as a ‘blanket rule’, said Mr Glyn.
Despite knowing of the risk to public safety, Network Rail had ‘done nothing’ to mitigate the risk after removing the whistle boards, the mother claimed in court
Despite knowing of the risk to public safety, Network Rail had ‘done nothing’ to mitigate the risk after removing the whistle boards, he claimed before Judge Heather Baucher.
‘The girls were simply not looking for a train or looking out for its motion because they relied upon the whistle board,’ he said.
‘It is most unlikely that these two intelligent 16-year-old A-level students would have used the crossing as they did if they had been warned by a sign that trains ran silently at night.’
Mr Glyn also highlighted a statement made by Amelia Hustwick to police, setting out the background to the tragedy.
She explained how the two girls had gone out that night after going to the shops to buy ingredients for baking biscuits.
Milena was studying for her A-levels when she died, said her devastated mother, having clocked up eleven A-stars at GCSE
They went on to a friend’s house and later sat in the park for a short while, also smoking some cannabis.
But neither girl was high when they finally reached the level crossing, she stressed, and Mr Glyn also confirmed that no drugs traces were detected in post mortem reports on Milena.
‘We just sat there laughing and giggling,’ she said.
‘The train rushed past out of nowhere going very fast. I looked up and assumed that Milena had jumped out of the way.
‘But then I saw her body lying in a heap ten metres away.’
She added: ‘We thought if a train comes, it would toot. We just didn’t think they ran at night.’
She and Milena were like ‘two peas in a pod’, she explained, adding: ‘She was my favourite person in the world.’
They had gone to the crossing because it was a good place to hang out, she said, and added: ‘We did not go there to take our lives.’
The train was travelling at around 55mph at impact and only Amelia managed to jump out of its path.
Network Rail barrister, Helen Hobhouse, argued that its ‘duty of care’ was restricted to pedestrians crossing the track.
Studies also show that signs are ‘frequently not noticed or observed’, she said.
And she added: ‘There would have been no significant risk to anyone using the crossing between 11pm and 7am, provided they checked carefully in both directions before crossing the track’.
The judge reserved judgment on the case until a later date.
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