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Railway trespass victim backs safety drive

A LONDON teenager who was seriously injured because he trespassed on the railway has been commended by Network Rail for being brave enough to lend his support to a railway safety drive.

Inigo Sweeney-Lynch, 17, is backing Network Rail’s You vs. Train campaign to raise awareness of the risks which trespassers face.

Electrified lines are even more hazardous because the third rail carries 750V, while overhead lines have 25,000 volts.

Inigo came to grief when he and a friend climbed a wall at a railway sub-station. He was hit by an electrical arc from an overhead line, demonstrating that the current in the overhead is so powerful it is not necessary to touch the cable to receive a shock.

A third of his body was burnt, and he will carry the legacy of his injuries for life.

He was so badly hurt that he had to spend two months in a specialist burns unit in Chelmsford, where he had to learn to walk again.

He said: ‘One minute I was climbing, the next I was slumped over a wall unconscious and my clothes were on fire. It’s hard to describe the shock – I didn’t know what had happened. I fell off the wall into brambles and used my right arm to put out the flames. My clothes had melted on to my body and I was aware of incredible pain.‘

‘I had three operations to graft skin on to the worst burns, including surgery to cut a piece of my leg away and sew it on to my arm where it had burned down to the bone. The physios had to help me learn to walk again – and that was really tough. I needed something like 8,000 calories a day because my body was using so much energy keeping itself alive and healing.

‘My scars are pretty bad but it’s not my face and I’m lucky to be alive. Somehow I always believed I would get better – my mum asked me what gave me the strength to think like that, and I have to say it was ignorance. I haven’t lost my sense of adventure and I wouldn’t say “don’t be adventurous” to anyone, but I would say learn from my mistakes – sometimes you just don’t know what you’re messing with.’

The You vs. Train campaign by Network Rail and British Transport Police is targeting teenagers to hammer home the dangers which exist on the railway, both from moving trains and less obvious hazards, such as electrified lines.

Inigo’s mother Sharon added: ‘Inigo has recovered beyond the surgeon’s hopes and while he has lost some movement in his arm and still bears horrific scars, we are so thankful we still have him – it could so easily have been a different, unthinkable outcome.

It’s hard recounting what happened to him – even two years on it still seems unreal and I stop breathing when I think about the horror of his injuries and the agony he suffered. He knows he was somewhere he shouldn’t have been and I feel guilty to think my son trespassed, but I also know he’s a good lad who made a terrible mistake – one that he will regret for the rest of his life.

‘So many teenagers take risks – it’s a part of growing up – but I would urge parents to tell their kids about what happened to Inigo, to warn them never to mess with the railway.’

Network Rail south east managing director John Halsall said: ‘While the You vs. Train campaign has made a huge difference since its launch last summer, too many people are continuing to risk their lives.

‘I commend Inigo’s bravery for sharing his story so that he can warn others not to make the same mistake.’

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