The death that nobody saw

There are a lot of what ifs in the story of Lee Mason’s death at Springwood train station in March last year.

What if he hadn’t been drinking so heavily? What if he’d taken a taxi home to Woodford instead of waiting for a train? What if railway staff had kept a closer eye on him as he slept on the platform?

Because at age 27, Lee Mason, a painter and father-of-three, ended up dead after not one, but two, trains hit him when he stumbled off the platform in the early hours of Sunday March 13, 2011.

Lee’s distraught father Glen said his son was trying to do the right thing by catching the train home after drinking and he believes the State Government needs to act on recommendations a coroner has made in relation to his son’s death.

After an inquest in Katoomba last month deputy state coroner Hugh Dillon recommended the following to save lives in the future:

• that RailCorp staff develop a policy for managing people sleeping on railways stations and check on them every 30 minutes.

• that staff at night also notify CCTV operators so further monitoring can take place.

• that RailCorp work towards a better “track intrusion detection system” and investigate the availability of large radar devices for trains that detect people moving on the track.

During the inquest Glen Mason said he was horrified to discover that there “was a sole CCTV operator at Katoomba working on the night of my son’s death monitoring 21 railway stations from Lithgow to Lapstone where there are 241 cameras and 36 different camera views to watch at any one time”.The CCTV operator was also expected to save and transfer DVD’s from previous incidents during his overnight shift.

“My son should have been removed from any danger,” he said. 

Mr Mason said there was footage to show his son was still alive when hit by the first passenger train but died when a coal train hit him about 20 minutes later. 

A RailCorp legal spokeswoman Heather Oswald submitted material to the inquest saying the company had tested devices that could detect objects on the track but the trials had been “unfavourable” because the devices had “a high level of nuisance alarms” from “rodents and rubbish”.

Mr Mason’s legal advice indicates that under the Civil Liability Act he may struggle to mount a case against RailCorp because his son was drunk when he died. But nonetheless he would like an apology, changes made to the way intoxicated people are treated at railway stations and some compensation for Lee’s young family.

RailCorp provided a document to the coroner which deals with how to manage homeless people in public places but the coroner said Lee Mason was not homeless and “railway stations are significantly different in a number of respects from other public places, not least being the fact that trains do not run through most other public places”.

Deputy state coroner Hugh Dillon said he was aware the NSW Government did not have a “fiscal Magic Pudding” but better track intruder technologies would help “save at least some lives”.

A RailCorp spokeswoman said they were reviewing the recommendations.

“Once they have been thoroughly considered, RailCorp will determine any actions arising from those recommendations,” she said.

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