Preparing for the worst: a mum’s account of a near-fatal incident on the tracks

“The message for anyone who goes on the railway is clear… you are on the railway, you are on dangerous ground.”

When mum of two Siobhan Hubbard was told that her youngest child, Tom, had been hurt on the railway track, she rushed to the scene – not knowing if her son was alive or dead.

After deciding to climb a parked train, Tom was electrocuted by over 25,000 volts. Suffering from severe burns all over his body, he was put into an induced coma and the doctors told Siobhan to prepare herself for the worst.

Tom pulled through after numerous skin grafts and physiotherapy but four years later he is still trying to return his life to that of a typical 20-year-old.

Here Siobhan tells her side of Tom’s story:

“I often look back on that night and think if there was anything I could have done or said that could have stopped him. As a parent you think you have taught your kids about how roads, bridges and railways are dangerous places to hang out. I never thought that my 16 year old son would have done anything that would put his life at risk.

“Tom had just finished his GCSEs and gone out after dinner with his friends to play football. My daughter Katie came running down the stairs shouting for me. Tom’s friend James* had just called saying Tom had been hurt on the tracks, and they thought he had been electrocuted.

“Why was he on the railway? They went to play football? How could he have been electrocuted?

“The scene when I arrived at the train track is something that no mother should have to see.  Tom was lying on top of the train with about 10 people working on him. I was told to stand behind the fence. I felt so far away and helpless and wished that I could be next to him to tell him it would all be ok. But in that moment we had no idea if he would be.”

“When we arrived at the hospital I thought they were going to tell me he was dead, but the doctors told us that he was alive and going to have to be put into an induced coma so his body could have a chance of recovering from his injuries.”

Three weeks later

“His face was the size of a football from where it was swollen and burnt. They had to shave his head, so they could use skin off his head for skin grafts on his badly burnt body. That broke my heart. It just didn’t look like my little boy.

“Over the few months Tom had to endure numerous skin grafts to repair his arm, leg, neck and torso, followed by three years of painful physio to help mobilise the restrictions in his movement that the scarring was causing. It was a really tough summer for all of us. Travelling to Birmingham Queen Elizabeth Hospital every day from our home in Rugby was both emotionally and financially draining.”

Physical and mental scars

“He was always quiet shy and introverted but now he is more reserved and guarded. He stays in during the day a lot and will wear long-sleeved tops to hide his scars, even in the summer heat.

“I did eventually find out more about what really happened that night and how they had all been egging each other on to cross the tracks and climb the train. As a mother you do everything you can to protect your children. But what seemed like innocent fun will impact Tom for the rest of his life.

“It may sound like something your children would never do, but warning them about the dangers of the railway is vital. I don’t think young people realise the dangers and think the electricity is turned off when trains aren’t coming, or that if they look first they will be okay, even though trains can run at 140mph and can’t stop quickly. There are so many hidden dangers.

“The message for anyone who goes on the railway is clear. It’s not a playground or a short cut – you are on the railway, you are on dangerous ground.”

*some names have been changed to hide their identity

Tom and his family have shared their story for a new campaign, You Vs Train. Watch this short film based on Tom’s incident.

To find out more about the campaign search #YouVsTrain on social media or visit You vs. train website.