The family of a teenager who died after being hit by a train in Ferring last year have paid tribute to their ‘kind’ and ‘bright’ son and brother.
Elliott Bignall, 17, of Woodlea Road, Worthing, died in the early hours of September 10, last year, after he was struck by a train on the Langmeads railway foot crossing near Langbury Lane.
At an inquest at Horsham’s Park House on Thursday, senior coroner for West Sussex Penelope Schofield concluded his death was accidental and raised concerns about the dangers of the crossing.
Elliott’s family said they had been left ‘utterly heartbroken’ and paid tribute to him.
They said: “Elliott’s death came as a shock to his whole family. We were, and still are, completely devastated and utterly heartbroken.
“He was the best son and brother we as parents and his sister could ever have asked for. He was caring, kind, articulate, bright and funny.
“He was always there to listen to his friends and help them in any way he could.
“No amount of time will ever heal the emotional pain we feel, and nor should it.”
The inquest heard Elliott had been exchanging messages with his girlfriend on the evening of September 9 and had gone to visit her at her home in Ferring.
British Transport Police sergeant John Dickinson said the teenager caught the train from West Worthing station and travelled to Goring, where he walked the rest of the journey to her house.
On his way back in the early hours of the next morning, he used the foot crossing and was hit by an oncoming train.
In a statement from the train driver, read out by Sgt Dickinson, he said Elliott had his hood up and looked to be talking to someone on his phone. He added the teenager may not have heard the train coming, as they are designed to move as quietly as possible, and he could have seen it late.
“It is a horrible crossing,” he said.
“It is incredibly hard to judge the speeds and distances, for there is no lighting or signs or anything like that.”
Mrs Schofield agreed the crossing was dangerous and concluded the teenager’s death was accidental, as there was no evidence Elliott intended to take his own life.
She said: “On the facts I have heard, this appears to me this was a tragic accident and that is what I plan to record.
“There is nothing before me that shows Elliott had the intention of taking his own life.
“I believe Elliott did not see the train until it was too late. Perhaps he was distracted as he was on the phone.
“I do propose to write to the relevant authority responsible for the railway line regarding the fact this is old railway line and it is unlikely people would see a fast train approaching.”
Elliott’s family added their concern over the safety of the crossing after the inquest.
They said: “As a family, we would support any measures to improve safety for all pedestrians at this crossing.
“We would hate for another family to go through the pain and suffering we continue to live with. We would urge anyone using this crossing to think seriously about the danger they are putting themselves in.”
The family said the pain of Elliott’s death was a constant reminder that ‘he genuinely touched the lives of all the people he met’.