A teenager who suffered 34% burns to his body trespassing on the railway is today sharing his story to deter other young people from making the same mistake.
Inigo Sweeney-Lynch, 17, is backing the You vs. Train campaign to raise awareness of the railway’s hidden dangers, especially the third rail which carries enough electricity to kill or cause life-changing injuries.
Inigo, from South London, was climbing a wall with a friend in an electricity sub-station when the 25,000-volt current arced into his body.
“One minute I was climbing, the next I was slumped over a wall unconscious and my clothes were on fire,” the student said.
“It’s hard to describe the shock – I didn’t know what had happened. I fell about eight feet off the wall into brambles and used my right arm to put out the flames.
“My clothes had melted onto my body and I was aware of this incredible pain.”
Inigo was wrapped head-to-toe in clingfilm and bandages and transferred to Broomfield Hospital, a specialist burns unit in Chelmsford, Essex.
He spent the next two months in hospital, where he even had to learn to walk again.
“I had three operations to graft skin onto the worst burns, including surgery to cut a piece of my leg away and sew it onto 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, run by Network Rail and the British Transport Police, is targeting teenagers to hammer home the dangers present on the railway, whether obvious like a train, or hidden like the electric current in the third rail or trackside facilities. The only way to avoid these dangers is to never step foot on the railway in the first place.
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.”
Research undertaken amongst teenagers revealed that one in 10 admitted to walking along the railway line, while 31% didn’t even think electrocution or severe burns could even happen.
John Halsall, managing director of Network Rail south east, which covers South London, Kent and Surrey, said: “While the You vs. Train campaign has made a huge difference since it’s initial 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.”