Wednesday 23 Nov 2016
“My leg was stuck to the rail and I couldn’t get off”: Hampshire man appeals for the public to keep a clear head near the railway this Christmas
December may be a time of drinks after work and Christmas parties, but one man from Southampton is urging everyone to stay safe if they’re planning on using the railway this Christmas after he barely escaped with his own life when he fell onto an electrified rail.
Chris Dos Santos, 29, from Totton in Hampshire, has teamed up with Network Rail this winter to remind anyone using trains or level crossings that they’re on dangerous ground if they’ve had too much to drink.
In 2015, Chris was lucky to survive an electric shock when he crossed the railway illegally and fell on the ‘third-rail’, an electrified line that runs along the ground adjacent to the tracks to power trains. It carries 750 volts of Direct Current (DC). He went into cardiac arrest on the spot and thought he was about to die.
Chris said: “I’d been on a lads’ day trip to the Isle of Wight and when we got back I decided to stay out a bit longer and went and met some mates at the pub which is near a level crossing. When we left we went to cross the railway, but I walked along the track and fell and landed on the ‘third rail’.
“The third rail is an electrified rail that powers the trains that go along the track. I received a 750 volt electric shock through my leg and into my body. Because the power is DC, it actually sucks you to the power source so my leg was stuck to the rail and I couldn’t get off.
“I then had a cardiac arrest. Three of my friends came and tried to help me but also received a shock. They thought I was going to die. I remember the smell of burning skin. It was awful. I received severe burns to my legs, back and arm. I continued to have cardiac arrests and when I got to hospital they thought they were going to have to amputate my leg.”
Each year across Britain’s rail network, alcohol-related incidents increase by approximately 25% in December, compared to the beginning of the year. As a result, Network Rail has teamed up with the British Transport Police, the Rail Safety Standards Board (RSSB) and Drink Aware to urge party goers to take extra care when travelling on or around the railway.
Becky Lumlock, route managing director at Network Rail said: “Chris’s story is extreme, but sadly cases like this do happen over the festive period and it shows the dangers of using the railway after having had a lot to drink.
“We want everyone to enjoy the festive season, but it’s also important to remember that the railway can be a dangerous place. Taking risks at level crossings, and running along platforms can have life-changing impacts, so we’re urging anyone who uses the railway to keep a clear head and stay safe.”
Chris spent a difficult three months in hospital following his accident: “I didn’t want my girlfriend to come and see me. I also didn’t want my kids to see me the way I was and I started to get flashbacks from the accident. The accident has continued to affect my mental and physical health. I’m still on crutches and have trouble walking on my leg, and there is still a lot of scarring.
“A year later and my life is beginning to improve. I’ve also started to work with Network Rail to support safety events and try and warn others about how dangerous the railway can be. I feel like this has really helped with my recovery.
“If I could go back to that night, I would never have walked along the railway. People should understand how dangerous it is. No matter how many drinks you’ve had, making the wrong decision can leave you with consequences that you have to live with for the rest of your life. If my story can make just one person more aware of the dangers, then it’s worth sharing.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
- Across Britain there have been over 4,000 alcohol related incidents reported over the past five years
- Almost half (44%) of all incidents reported last winter involved alcohol (BTP National Disruption Fusion Unit data 2016)
- Nearly 250 incidents recorded at level crossings last December
- Passengers boarding and alighting trains were involved in 395 alcohol related accidents in the last five years
On electrified British railway lines, trains either draw their power from an overhead cable or a ‘third rail’. The ‘third rail’ runs along the ground, adjacent to the track that the train’s wheels run along, but is powered with 750 volts of Direct Current (DC) electricity.
Large sections of the railway in the south west are powered by ‘third rail’.
About Network Rail
Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain's railway - the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.65bn journeys by rail every year and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We employ 38,000 people across Britain and work round-the-clock, each and every day, to provide a safe, reliable railway.
About the Railway Upgrade Plan
The Railway Upgrade Plan is Network Rail's investment plan for Britain's railways. It makes up two-thirds of Network Rail's £40bn spending priorities for the five years to 2019 and represents the biggest sustained programme of rail modernisation since the Victoria era. It is designed to provide more capacity, relieve crowding and respond to the tremendous growth Britain's railways continue to experience; passenger numbers have doubled in the past 20 years and are set to double again over the next 25 years - so we need to continue to invest in building a bigger, better railway. For passengers, that means:
- longer, faster more frequent trains;
- better, more reliable infrastructure; and
- better facilities for passengers, especially at stations.