Two horses hit by train after '˜Network Rail left hole in our fence'

A FAMILY is blaming Network Rail for the violent death of their horse and pony, after they escaped on to the track and were hit by a train.

Samantha Ashby, 11 of Barnsley, with father Darryl. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Samantha Ashby, 11, was heartbroken when her pony Tinkerbell and horse Tony escaped from her family’s field and were struck by a passing carriage, leaving them with horrific injuries.

The horses were kept in a field above a railway line, and the family had allowed Network Rail maintenance contractors to access the line for several months, through a bordering fence.

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Samantha’s father, Darryl Ashby, said he had asked the workmen to ensure they closed the electric fencing each time they passed through, to prevent the animals escaping.

Tony (left) and Tinkerbell. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

However, on Monday morning, the fencing was knocked down - something Mr Ashby says could not have happened had it been closed properly.

Three-year-old Tinkerbell was found injured in the field, having nearly bled to death from a cut artery, before having to be put down.

The train’s impact was so strong that the escaped white and black animal was thrown 40 feet from the train track back into the field.

10-year-old Tony was also missing, a grey horse, whom Samantha rode every day, was found after five-and-a-half hours, standing on the bank of a river that runs beside the Wakefield to Barnsley line, with a “horrendous” and gaping wound.

Samantha Ashby on Tony. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Around 20 firemen attended to remove the horse before a vet declared it had a broken leg too, as well as a shattered hip and pelvis, and had to be put down.

Mr Ashby, 48, said: “I didn’t let Sammy see Tinkers because it was too horrific. But when we found Tony, she cuddled him and he gave her a kiss as usual because he was really alert, which was strange considering how many hours he’d been standing there.

“She had to say goodbye when the fire brigade came because we didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Mr Ashby, who owns a garage that specialises in classic Mini restoration, said: “The horse was missing from 6.30am-2pm. National Rail told me that someone would check the track, but no one including workers are allowed on the red section of the line unless it’s closed.

The fence now repaired by Network Rail. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

“When I rang and told them, they were not prepared to close the line, even though the horse could have been lying in the red section. They just said they would caution drivers to drive slower through that area.

“If it derailed the train, it was no longer the horse that was dead - it would be the general public. They can stop trains for leaves on the line or a bit of snow, but not a horse? They were endangering public safety with that decision.”

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We work tirelessly to maintain the fences and boundaries on the 20,000 miles of track on our rail network but on rare occasions animals which are kept in nearby fields can break through fences and escape onto the tracks.

“At our last inspection (July 2016) the fence in question was intact and we received no information that the fence had become damaged prior to the reports from a train driver on Monday morning that he believed he had struck an animal. We understand this is a distressing incident and our sympathies go to all those affected by it.

The barrier damaged after the train strike. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

“When we were made aware that a second horse was missing, all trains which run on the line were cautioned. This is the approved safety procedure we follow in circumstances such as this to protect everyone involved.”

Tony (left) and Tinkerbell. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
Samantha Ashby on Tony. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
The fence now repaired by Network Rail. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
The barrier damaged after the train strike. Picture: Ross Parry Agency