Network Rail has been blasted ‘irresponsible’ after the death of a teenager who fell off the sea wall at Dawlish earlier this year.
Fourteen-year-old Albina Yevko was killed falling four metres off the unprotected edge of the wall beside the railway line onto concrete below. More than 500 people have signed an online petition calling for safety measures.
Network Rail revealed today that a new risk assessment of the area is under way and ‘all options’ will be considered.
Albina and her mother Inna moved to the UK after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and had settled well into life in the town, where Albina attended Dawlish College.
Close family friend Cllr Rosie Dawson (Lib Dem, Dawlish NE) struggled to hold back tears as she called for action to make the wall safer. Albina’s mother was at the Teignbridge Council executive committee meeting to hear the debate.
“The thought of someone else losing their life keeps us awake at night,” she added. “Albina was just a child. How many more people need to lose their lives?”
She said the tragedy had changed her family’s life forever, adding: “Albina was just gaining the confidence to go out for walks on her own and with friends. She loved the view and the sound of the waves. She and her mother found it idyllic.”
She said when her mother could not raise her on the phone, she knew she had not gone off with friends and was not avoiding calls.
“They were stuck together like glue,” said Cllr Dawson.
Albina suffered ’catastrophic’ injuries and was airlifted from the beach by the Devon Air Ambulance. Doctors spent six hours trying to resuscitate her.
“By morning we knew that those mighty efforts were not enough,” said Cllr Dawson. “I held Albina’s hand as resuscitation ceased, and from that moment our lives changed forever.”
An inquest opening in March heard that Albina died from ‘multiple injuries’ sustained in the fall, but a full inquest hearing has not yet been held.
Cllr Dawson criticised Network Rail for saying it would be too expensive to create a safety railing along the wall “because £3.2 billion in pre-tax profit just isn’t enough for them.”
“They said they felt sorry for Albina’s mother. They said they couldn’t share their risk assessment with us. They said despite their staff needing to be anchored to the wall while working on it, public safety wasn’t a concern, and then they said goodbye.”
She said there had been numerous accidents over the years, including other incidents in which people had died after falling from the wall. The inquest into Albina’s death has been delayed because, she said, Network Rail has not yet submitted its report.
Cllr Linda Goodman-Bradbury (Lib Dem, Dawlish NE) said: “We need to get Network Rail to face up to a public safety issue that is absolutely screaming at us.” and Cllr John Nutley (Lib Dem, Ashburton and Buckfastleigh) called for a meeting with the rail company at the scene of the tragedy. Members of the committee unanimously backed him.
Cllr Gary Taylor (Lib Dem, Kenton and Starcross) said he had been asking Network Rail to do something about the wall for a number of years, possibly posts and chains along the edge.
“It is irresponsible of Network Rail to say that public safety is not their concern,” he said. “It should be their concern. It is everybody’s concern.
“I don’t see how they can say they don’t have any responsibility. I feel they certainly do.”
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We were saddened to hear of the passing of Albina Yevko and we’ve met with the family to express our condolences and discuss their concerns relating to the sea wall.
“Following the collapse of the sea wall in 2014, we conducted a risk assessment of the wall. Now that we have completed the new sea wall at Dawlish, a new risk assessment is under way to understand if there have been any changes which would affect the level of risk in this area.
“All options will be considered as part of the new risk assessment.”