Barns Green railway crossing inquest: Jury reaches verdict on deaths of grandfather and grandson


A teenager who died after a car was struck by a train at a level crossing in Barns Green was unlawfully killed, an inquest has decided today (January 18).

Retired teacher Barry Hearnshaw, 71, was driving his grandson - keen footballer Will Hallett, 15 - to a football match when the incident unfolded at Emms Lane crossing on February 17 last year.

Following a two-day inquest into the pair’s deaths a jury delivered a verdict that Will had been unlawfully killed and his grandad’s death was accidental.

Returning the verdict on Barry, the jury said that he “attempted to cross in his vehicle at the level crossing at Barns Green after disregarding warning signs put in place to prevent this, and in the process of doing so was struck by an oncoming train.”

They delivered the verdict of ‘accidental death’ as the unintended consequence of a deliberate act or omission.

Delivering the verdict on Will, the jury said that he died ‘while travelling as a passenger in his grandfather’s car, which attempted to cross the level crossing at Barns Green after disregarding warning signs put in place to prevent this, was fatally struck by an oncoming southbound train.’

The jury had earlier heard how evidence suggested that Barry had made a conscious decision to cross the rail line when the safety barriers were down - but his and Will’s family strongly disputed the suggestion. They queried whether Barry had suffered a medical episode at the wheel and whether the barriers were working properly. They said Barry was a careful and cautious driver.

But police forensic investigator PC Paul Banks said evidence suggested Barry had driven around the barriers from one side of the road to the other before the back of the car was hit by the train.

The jury had heard how there was a huge fireball and the car broke in two. Barry and Will both died instantly.

After the jury returned their verdicts, West Sussex Coroner Penelope Schofield offered her ‘sincere condolences to the family for their sad loss of Will and Barry.’

“Our hearts all go out to you,” she said. “This is a difficult time for the whole family bearing in mind the circumstances of this case.

“The deaths of both Barry and Will have clearly had a huge impact on not only the family but the whole community of the Barns Green area.”