A promising footballer who thought he was “invincible” was killed on his 22nd birthday as he crossed a railway track on his motorbike and was hit by a 100mph train, an inquest has heard.
Declan Callum was off-road biking with five pals when he ploughed through a broken perimeter fence and onto the tracks just seconds before a train hit him.
The inquest, at Leamington Justice Centre, heard Declan, from Coventry, died instantly when the London Midland train struck him at 11.30am on October 4.
Another rider was left with minor injuries after the attempted crossing near Brandon Wood, Coventry.
Malcolm Dobson, of British Transport Police, told the inquest the six riders had ignored warning signs and taken advantage of a broken perimeter fence to reach the track.
He said: “The decision to use this dangerous and unlawful point to cross the railway line appears to have been a contributory factor in the death.
“No evidence was discovered to suggest that this was a regular point for off-road bikes to cross the railway line and no explanation was provided by the group as to why this route was chosen.
“The damaged perimeter fence provided the opportunity for the group to cross, but it has not been established when, or by whom, the damage was caused.
“The risks involved in crossing the line at this unauthorised location, where passing trains could be readily expected to be travelling at high speed could, and should, have been avoided.”
Recording a verdict of accidental death, Coventry and Warwickshire coroner Sean McGovern said: “This is a very sad incident, compounded by the fact it happened on his birthday.
“There aren’t many positives to take out of an incident like this, but there is no question Declan died instantly.
“It would have been an extremely quick death, it may be that he was wholly unaware of it.”
Declan was described as a talented footballer who played for Midland Alliance club Coventry Sphinx before his death.
Declan’s distraught mum Angela Shea, who was too upset to attend the inquest, said afterwards that her son thought he was “invincible”.
She said in a statement: “This is another sad and heartbreaking day today, but they have all been like this since my beautiful boy Declan was taken from us so tragically.
“I just wanted to tell the whole world about my big, soft, gentle giant to those who never had the honour of meeting him.
“Declan was such an innocent, kind, caring and respectful boy who would do absolutely anything for anyone.
“Nothing was ever too much for him and he always did it with a huge smile.
“Declan was such a mummy’s boy and we would phone each other up to ten times every day.
“We had a special word that meant nothing to nobody except he and myself. The special word was ‘Ingyh’.
“Both my heart and soul are broken into a million pieces without him.
“If Declan could see the turmoil we are all going through, he would be absolutely heartbroken himself as he was such a big softy.
“Declan is no longer with us today because of his innocence.
“It was Declan’s 22nd birthday and he was out doing the thing he loved the most, which was motorbiking.
“What 22-year-old wouldn’t think that they were invincible whilst out having fun?
“However, one wrong decision not only cost my beautiful boy Declan his life, but also my life.
“I would not wish this pain, torture or despair on any mother, and I urge for any other man, woman or child even thinking of crossing a rail track to seriously think again.”
Verdict: Accidental death.