A mother-of-two has spoke of the moment she convinced herself her teen son was going to die after learning he’d been electrocuted by overhead cables on the railway.
Siobhan Hubbard, 53, from Rugby, told how Tom, now 21, was just 16-years-old when he was playing with friends and climbed on a stationary train to retrieve a football.
While he didn’t touch the overhead wires directly, the electricity jumped and 25,000 volts surged through his body, leaving him with devastating physical and physiological consequences for both him and his family.
‘His father and I were the first to see him, it wasn’t a pretty sight,’ said Siobhan. ‘I just remember that his head had swollen up to the size of a football and his skin was burnt black all around his neck and shoulders.’
On 24th June 2014, Tom has just finished his GCSEs when he decided to have a kick about with his friends.
‘I was in the kitchen making a cup of tea when my daughter Katie came running down the stairs screaming that Thomas had been electrocuted,’ explained Siobhan.
‘I couldn’t even process what that meant. And then, just like that, she flew out the door. I remember she didn’t even have any shoes on.’
By the time worried Siobhan had arrived, it was dark, the ambulance service were there and there were spotlights on the scene.
‘It was like a scene from Casualty,’ Siobhan said. ‘At this point, I still didn’t know what exactly had happened but I could see a shape of a body on top of a train on the third track across from where we were standing.’
While Siobhan could see two figures working to save her son’s life, she, along with her family, were held in a car park.
‘I just remember pacing around like a caged tiger,’ she said. ‘The only information they would give us was that Thomas was still alive but that was all. It was like something out of a film.’
She added: ‘The friend he had been playing with, Mitchell, was sat on the floor in deep shock, they weren’t saying much which made me know that whatever had happened, it was bad.’
Siobhan had been at the scene for around forty minutes when she was told her son had been struck by 25,000 volts from the overhead train cables.
‘I couldn’t believe it,’ she explained. ‘I was convinced he was going to die. It was only when the ambulance crew managed to get him off the roof of the train that I was told the full story.’
Tom had jumped the fence to get the football back and had gone across the tracks to climb on top of a train, where he had been electrocuted. Though he hadn’t touched the overhead wires directly, the electricity had jumped.
‘Thinking my boy had been hit by over 25,000 volts, was heartbreaking,’ explained Siobhan. ‘I had no idea how he could survive such an ordeal.’
She added: ‘The electricity has passed through his left shoulder and out his right foot with such force it was like he had been shot with a gun. His t-shirt had caught fire and melted into his torso.’
Siobhan described that moment as ‘surreal’ and says she was ‘beside herself’ after convincing herself he wouldn’t pull through.
The family were told to make their way to hospital and were taken straight to a separate room while Tom was in resuscitation.
‘I was utterly convinced that we would lose him,’ she said. ‘That 20 minute car journey to the hospital was one of the worst times of my life.’
She added: ‘None of the doctors could tell us anything other than what we already knew as they were busy working on him. I was just waiting for them to tell me that he was dead.’
Eventually, Siobhan and the rest of the family were told that Tom was alive, but that they’d put him in a coma.
‘It sounds silly but the thing that upset me the most was the fact that he had lost his beautiful mop of ginger hair,’ said the mother-of-two. ‘They had to shave his head so they could use skin off his head for skin grafts on his badly burnt body.’
‘He had such lovely hair and it was ruined. He just didn’t look like my little boy. I will never get that image out of my head.’
Tom had to be sedated for 12 days in the hospital and was put in critical care.
‘The worst thing about him being sedated was that I felt that I couldn’t comfort him and tell him “Mummy’s here” because he couldn’t hear me,’ Siobhan said.
Even though Tom was alive, he wasn’t out of the woods yet. The doctor explained he may not pull through and that he could die at any moment.
‘Those few weeks I lived on edge everyday thinking I was going to get that awful call that he’d died,’ she said.
Having suffered third degree burns, Tom was bandaged from head-to-toe. Eventually, when doctors felt he had made enough of a recovery, he was moved into the burns unit.
Three weeks after the accident, Tom was awake and able to speak again.
He has endured numerous skin grafts to repair his arm, leg, neck and torso, followed by three years of painful physio to help mobilise the restrictions in his movement that the scarring was causing.
He had to re-learn even the simplest of tasks like walking, eating, and even breathing on his own.
Now, Siobhan says that years on, Tom is still affected by the events of that day, both physically and mentally.
‘He was always quite shy and introverted but now he is more reserved and guarded,’ she explained. ‘He stays in during the day a lot and will wear long-sleeved tops and a scarf to hide his scars – even in the summer heat.’
She added: ‘It has made us all closer as we’re all just so grateful he’s still here to tell the tale.’
‘We’ve also seen each at our absolute lowest and then come out the other side. That kind of thing changes relationships for the better I think.’
Tom and Siobhan Hubbard are working with Network Rail and the British Transport Police on You vs. Train, a campaign which aims to educate young people on the dangers of taking risks on the railway.
To find out more about how to stay safe on the railway, visit: www.youvstrain.co.uk