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A woman who stuck her head out of a train window was killed by a tree branch, an inquest jury has concluded.

Bethan Roper, 28, suffered fatal head injuries when she was hit by the branch at Twerton, between Bath and Bristol.

She was returning home to South Wales after a day out with friends Christmas shopping in Bath.

Avon coroner Maria Voisin said she would not write a preventing future deaths report because the carriage involved was being phased out.

The Great Western Railway (GWR) train was travelling at about 75mph (120km/h) when Miss Roper died on 1 December 2018, jurors heard.

Insufficient deterrent
The London Paddington to Exeter service was using carriages with droplight windows to enable passengers to reach a door handle on the outside to exit the train.

Investigators told the inquest a yellow warning label above the window bearing the words: "Caution do not lean out of window when train is moving" - was an insufficient deterrent.

The inquest also heard GWR had already completed a risk assessment of its droplight windows following the death of another passenger in 2016.

Enhanced warning signs were due to be installed by May 2018, but that had not happened by the time Miss Roper was killed seven months later.

Miss Roper, from Penarth, South Wales, was fatally injured within minutes of the train leaving Bath when her head was struck by an ash tree branch.

Toxicology tests found she was nearly twice the drink-drive limit.

The inquest also heard the tree had undergone inspections in 2009 and 2012 but by February 2017, the branch that killed Miss Roper had fallen towards the railway line and was resting on a fence at the top of the embankment.

An expert told the hearing that further specialist inspections might have prevented the tragedy.

Bethan Roper
image captionBethan Roper worked for the Welsh Refugee Council charity and was chairwoman of Young Socialists Cardiff
Returning a majority narrative conclusion, the inquest jury said Miss Roper had "boarded the train under the influence of alcohol".

And "despite a warning sign" she had leant out of a droplight window while the train was moving.

"She was struck by a stem of a tree sustaining a fatal head injury," the jury said.

Ms Voisin, senior coroner for Avon, said she would not write a preventing future deaths report because the coaches involved were being phased out to be replaced with electric doors operated by an interior button.

In a statement, Miss Roper's father, Adrian Roper, said he hoped concerns raised by arboricultural consultant Julian Forbes-Laird earlier in the inquest would be taken onboard.

Mr Forbes-Laird said the accident had been "foreseeable" because other stems from the tree that hit Miss Roper had needed to be cut because of disease.

"I hope that the senior staff from Network Rail, GWR and the Office of Road and Rail paid due attention to the concerns he raised, and will make absolutely sure that the measures in place are indeed sufficient to prevent a catastrophic accident", Mr Roper said.

'Known risk'
Mr Roper added the narrative verdict "fairly and accurately" reflected the facts of the case.

Miss Roper had "ignored a sign saying 'do not lean out of the window'", and alcohol might have "clouded her judgement", he said.

But he added Miss Roper had leaned out of a droplight window, even though they had been "a known risk for many years".

Similarly, had the tree been removed, she would have "suffered no ill consequences", Mr Roper said.

Following the inquest Chris Pearce, from Network Rail, said: "Safety has and always will be our first priority. Our thoughts remain with Beth's family and friends.

"We urge passengers and the public to take care around trains and railway tracks.

"We have worked with the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, the Office of Rail and Road and the Coroner throughout this process and will continue to work with our industry partners to improve safety."

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