Royal Marine died when struck by train between Lympstone and Exmouth

County Hall in Exeter.

County Hall in Exeter. - Credit: Archant

A Royal Marine died on the railway line between Exmouth and Lympstone while walking back to barracks after a night out, an inquest has heard.

Lance Corporal Michael Younghusband, who was 22, was said to have been lying motionless on the line when he was hit by a train.

The inquest, at County Hall, heard a statement from train driver Colin Crow, who was driving the 11.16pm service from Exeter St David’s to Exmouth on December 9 last year.

He said, having left Lympstone heading for Exmouth, he accelerated the train to the line’s speed limit of 50mph, then suddenly saw a man lying between the rails.

Mr Crow immediately applied the emergency brake, but was unable to stop the train in time, and it collided with LCpl Younghusband.

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This happened at 11.58pm. Emergency services were called, and death was confirmed at 12.48am on December 10.

A post-mortem report found that LCpl Younghusband had a blood alcohol level of 245mg per 100ml of blood – slightly more than three times the legal drink-driving limit.

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LCpl Younghusband, a Royal Marine since 2010, had been attending a training course at the Lympstone Commando Training Centre. The inquest heard that LCpl Younghusband and colleagues had gone out drinking to celebrate the end of the course, and had visited pubs in Topsham, Exeter and Exmouth.

LCpl Younghusband was seen by CCTV cameras, at 11.22pm, leaving the Bank pub alone, and walking towards the bus and train stations. A man matching his description was then seen walking past the bus station by a witness.

Concluding the inquest, John Tomalin, deputy coroner for Exeter and Greater Devon, said: “For reasons we can’t specifically answer today, or ever in all probability, Michael was returning to his barracks walking along the railway line, where he tripped and fell, and my guess is that when the train approached he was perhaps unconscious at that point in time.

“The train did cause devastating and fatal injuries. I’m satisfied the train driver would have had little or no opportunity to stop such a large, heavy vehicle once he saw Michael’s body where it was.”

Mr Tomalin recorded a conclusion of accidental death, but noted that the high level of alcohol in LCpl Younghusband’s system may have affected his judgement.

During the inquest, members of LCpl Younghusband’s family raised concerns about the condition of a pedestrian crossing near where his body was found, and Mr Tomalin allowed the deceased’s brother Terry Younghusband to give evidence.

He said the family had visited the crossing after the incident, and seen protruding rails and ends of metal plates creating a tripping hazard, and no lighting.

Mr Tomalin said he was not able to say what exactly LCpl Younghusband had tripped on, suggesting it could have been the track itself, track ballast, the side of the track, or the crossing, but said he would write a Regulation 28 report – described as ‘a report to prevent future deaths’ – regarding the crossing, which would ask the rail authority to investigate.

He noted that LC Younghusband had been held in high esteem by his commanding officers, and achieved a distinguished pass in the course he had been attending.

Mr Tomalin said the incident was: “Such a sad and tragic end to a promising career.”

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