Woman who lost her arm and leg after being run over by two tube trains issues legal claim against Transport for London
A woman who was left seriously disabled after she was run over by two London Underground trains, has issued a legal claim against Transport for London (TfL) at the High Court.
Posted on 07 February 2024
Sarah de Lagarde was travelling home from work on 30 September 2022 when she slipped on a wet and uneven platform at High Barnet Station and fell onto the track. She was subsequently run over by the train she had been travelling on as it pulled out of the station and then by a second train which then pulled into the same platform.
Sarah, who is from North London, survived the incident but had to have her right arm and right leg amputated as a result of her injuries. She has since been fitted with a prosthetic leg and an arm which uses AI technology.
Sarah’s legal claim argues that a series of safety failings by TfL led her to remain on the tracks undetected by staff for 15 minutes despite her screams for help. The claim also questions whether TfL breached its own safety procedures and whether those procedures are fit for purpose.
Sarah is urging TfL to learn lessons from what happened to her to improve safety for all passengers who use the London Underground network.
TfL denies liability and having caused the incident, arguing that Sarah’s injuries were the result of a series of unfortunate events.
Sarah is concerned that this is a closed approach to safety and that there is a missed opportunity for learning outcomes which might prevent future missed opportunities and serious incidents, including deaths.
Law firm Leigh Day has issued the claim against TfL at the High Court on Sarah’s behalf. Sarah is represented by Leigh Day partner Thomas Jervis.
Sarah de Lagarde said:
“This incident has left me with devastating injuries which affect every aspect of my life, yet TfL continues to deny any responsibility or address the serious safety concerns that have been raised. What happened to me could have happened to anyone and, since my accident, I have been contacted by many people with safety fears or who have experienced near misses on the tube network. I believe TfL is putting millions of people at risk every day. It is vital that it learns lessons from my case to make a safer network for everyone and stop incidents like this happening again.”
Leigh Day partner Thomas Jervis said:
“What happened to Sarah should be regarded as a never event. The number of serious incidents and fatalities that occur when people are using our public transport system is deeply concerning. This incident has obviously had a devastating impact on Sarah and her family and she will not stop until she obtains justice.”
Sarah de Lagarde's speech in full
Thank you everyone for coming along today. Thank you to my family, friends and supporters for being here. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Sarah de Lagarde. The media calls me the bionic woman because I am 80% human and 20% robot.
On the 30th of September 2022, I was travelling home from work on the tube when I slipped on a wet and uneven platform at High Barnet Station on the northern line. I fell down the gap between the train and the platform. I was wearing a bright pink coat and had a neon phone lanyard. I have white blonde hair.
The driver didn’t see me fall because he had already left his cab to take a break. There were no staff on that platform and no-one was watching the CCTV. No-one had responded to my screams for help. I remained on the tracks for 15 minutes before anyone came to help. By that point it was too late.
My laptop bag had become wedged between the train and the platform. When the driver of the tube returned from his toilet break, he saw my bag, picked it up, assumed it was lost property and returned to his cab. If only he had looked down the gap, he would have seen or heard me. Instead he drove off and 22 tonnes of steel crushed my limbs.
But it got worse. I remained on the tracks undetected until the second train came into the station. I was crushed a second time. I was lying across the tracks. With my bright pink coat. My white blonde hair. I have no idea how the second driver did not see me. The vision of those train lights coming towards me and the noise of those giant steel wheels will haunt me for the rest of my life.
The thought of my children kept me conscious. When I was eventually found, the staff bungled the rescue attempts, losing precious minutes as they did not know what to do. They didn’t even think to dial 999. Even my youngest daughter knows to do that.
How did TFL initially respond to this terrible incident? They concluded that I fell because I was drunk and wearing high heels – neither of which were true - what an offensive assumption to make, that is victim blaming.
I’m now left with a permanent severe disability and chronic pain. And I have unanswered questions.
- The regulator - the Office of Rail and Road - thought this was an open and shut matter which merited no further investigation. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch decided my case was not worth a full investigation. Why?
- TFL also patted themselves on the back by saying that all staff involved “performed their duties exceptionally and in line with their training and TFL’s procedures”. How can that be right?
- TFL deny any moral or legal responsibility for my incident. Instead TFL’s Chief Commissioner Andy Lord told me about TFL’s travel buddy scheme. He told me that when I was ready, he would help me get back on the tube. How am I supposed to do that? The tube wasn’t safe when I had 4 limbs, how can it be safer now that I have 2? I felt gaslighted and that he made light of my disability.
- Sadiq Khan, the major of London, is the chair of TFL. My local MP Keir Starmer asked Sadiq to meet me to discuss the wider safety issues that my case raises and whether any lessons can be learnt. Sadiq Khan’s office turned my request down – they felt a meeting was inappropriate. Why? Is it because I’m an inconvenience?
- TFL says “This was a series of unfortunate and unique events that resulted in the injured person sustaining life-changing injuries”.
- TFL consider High Barnet station to be a low-risk station, however someone had accidentally fallen on the tracks not all that long before my incident and died, not being discovered until a TFL cleaner eventually found them.
- I was told that in November 2023 a man slipped at Stratford station - another terminus station like High Barnet. He was struck by a train. He died.
- Then, on Boxing Day 2023, another man fell onto the tracks. A pensioner called Brian. He was run over by multiple trains before his remains were found some time later. This happened in broad daylight. Why is this still happening? Why didn’t Sadiq Khan meet with me to hear my concerns before this further death?
- According to TFL’s own figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request, there were 2,516 incidents of people falling between the train and the platform while boarding or alighting from a train between 2006 and 2018. This amounts to an average of 16 incidents, like mine, a month. How is that acceptable in our modern society?
TFL seem to think that this number of incidents is acceptable when weighed against the number of people that travel everyday. But these are not just statistics, these are human beings. Every accidental serious injury or death on TFL’s network should be regarded as a never event.
I am of the view that these figures do not even scratch the surface. Since my incident, I have been contacted by hundreds of people who have either been injured or have experienced a near miss.
This is not even just about the tube, other families are being devastated by incidents on London’s transport network. Last week a lady died crushed by a TFL bus at Victoria Station on her way to work.
My children take public transport. So do my friends and colleagues. So do millions of Londoners. I’m worried sick for their safety. We, paying customers, deserve better.
TfL says ‘every journey matters’, I say ‘every commuter matters’.
I am again calling on Sadiq Khan to meet me and other victims of the London transport network to discuss these issues urgently before anyone else gets hurt or killed in this way. We need there to be an independent and comprehensive review of TFL’s safety procedures so that meaningful lessons can be learnt.
A few weeks before I was hit by 2 tubes, I climbed Kilimanjaro with my husband. A dream 10 years in the making. I felt on top of the world. Now I’m disabled for life. Now TFL makes me climb the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice here in London to start my legal battle against them.
I thank you for your time.
Woman who survived being run over by two tube trains urges TfL to improve safety measures
"Tube safety protocols are unsafe” - says Sarah de Lagarde