Elderly Eastbourne woman terrified after being hit on head by Polegate level crossing barrier

Violet Tarrant (89) at her home in Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby)
Violet Tarrant (89) at her home in Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby)

An elderly woman was left terrified and hurt after the barrier at Polegate level crossing slammed on her head.

Violet Tarrant, 89, suffered a head injury and said it ‘practically skinned’ her arm after knocking her on the ground on Friday (November 18). Mrs Tarrant, who was about to step off the crossing, said, “I felt full of beans, it was just a normal day, and then it happened.

Polegate railway level crossing (Photo by Jon Rigby)

Polegate railway level crossing (Photo by Jon Rigby)

“This sledge hammer just came down and bonked me on the head and knocked me for six. I didn’t know what had hit me. It frightened the life out of me. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the shock.

“It threw me to the side, I just curled up and screamed, the back of my neck was wet with blood, I was thinking a train was going to come along any minute.”

Luckily a man called Tony came and helped her up and told her everything was going to be okay. She described him as a ‘nice gentleman’ in his 50s or 60s and is keen to get in touch with him.

Now, Mrs Tarrant, a great great grandmother of Amberley Road, feels something needs to be done to stop this happening again.

She said, “I have done that walk every week. I don’t play chicken on train lines. I respect them and I get on and get off as quickly as I can. All I want is to make sure nobody else gets caught like I did.”

Her daughter Gill Clare said, “She way part way across and the alarm started going so she said she sped up and as she got to the end of the level crossing the barrier knocked her to the ground.

“She was left inside petrified a train would come and she would be run over.”

Mrs Clare praised members of the public who helped her mother and the paramedic who was quick to the scene and, after patching her up and making sure she was okay, stayed with her in her home for two hours.

She said of her mum, “She’s in shock, she was reliving it, she was so frightened. She hasn’t been out since.

“But she’s a fighter and incredibly independent.”

Now Mrs Clare says she wants to increase the time people have to get across the crossing. She said, “From the sounds of the alarm to the barrier going down is eight seconds. That’s nothing.

“An elderly person or a young mum with a pushchair might struggle to get across in that time.”

She says the alarm should go off sooner so pedestrians have more of a warning, and doesn’t understand why the barrier didn’t detect her mum was there before it hit her, She said, “The rail company say it was all working – so that’s supposed to happen?”

A Network Rail spokesman said, “We understand this incident will have been extremely distressing for Mrs Tarrant and her family and we hope she recovers quickly and fully from her injuries.

“Immediately after Friday’s incident, our local level crossing team carried out a full check of the level crossing, which was found to be in full working order.

“CCTV footage of the incident has confirmed that the crossing was working correctly at the time of the incident, with both visible and audible warnings in operation and signage in place to advise users of the how to cross safely.

“We have made a number of changes to the crossing at Polegate in recent years following feedback from the local community.

“It now has audible warnings on all four corners of the crossing with the volume increased to the highest permitted level, plus new ‘red men’ warning lights just like a pedestrian crossing to make clear when pedestrians should and should not cross.

“In addition, the crossing operates with ‘obstacle detection’ technology which uses radars to detect the presence of any cars, pedestrians, or objects on the crossing.

“When the system detects a pedestrian attempting to cross as the barriers have started to lower the detection triggers the system to halt the barrier sequence and stop the approaching train from passing through until the crossing is clear.

“Therefore, while there was no risk of a train coming through, we do understand that this would have been a very unsettling experience for Mrs Tarrant and thank the passing member of public for assisting her.”