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INQUEST AT RAKAIA.

An inquest was held yesterday at the Rakaia Hotel on the body of James Clark, who fell off the express train on Saturday last, before J. B. Trevor, Esq., Coroner, and a jury, of whom Mr. Walter Hartnell was chosen foreman.

Police-Sergeant Carlyon, sworn, said—lam stationed at Temuka. I identify the body as that of James Clark, of Temuka. He has told me that he had been staffsergeant and tailor of H.M. ’s 75th Regiment ; that he was in China with his regiment, and that he was wounded there in the face. I recognise the bullet wound on his left cheek. I have no difficulty in recognising him. I knew him well. He told me that he came from Invercargill. He was an Irishman, and was about 38 years of age. I believe him to have been a single man. He was suffering from heart disease. I have seen him fainting. I did not see him on the day of the accident.

Wm. Rouse, sworn—l am a constable, stationed at Rakaia. I recognise the body as that of the man who was killed on Saturday last. I found the body on the railway line after the arrival of the express train from Timaru. The guard of the train reported to me that a man had fallen off the train about 400 yards south of the Rakaia station. Went to the place, and found the body lying across the rails. His head was doubled up and lying on the trunk. Examined him, and found that he was almost cut in two in the small of the back. His right hand and right foot were almost severed, and his right thigh torn down. There was a blow on the right side of the head. He was quite dead. From marks on the line, the body seemed to have trailed about twenty-five yards. I searched him, and found a second-class railway ticket from Winchester, 15s. 4d. in money, a tape measure, and thimble. I had him removed to the Rakaia Hotel, where he now lies. Charles Heaton, sworn—l am a railway guard, and was in charge of the express from Timaru on Saturday last. When about 300 yards from Rakaia, on the south side, at about 5‘39 p.m., I felt the van I was in give a sudden jerk, as though it had run over some obstruction. On looking back for cause I saw a man lying across the rails, apparently run over. I thought it better to go on to Rakaia station, and communicate with the police and station-master there. When passing Methven junction I saw'some surface men. I asked them to go back to the scene of the accident and bring in the body if able to be removed. When I arrived at Rakaia I told the constable what had happened. Saw Dr. Ross, who was in the train, and asked him to go back and see the man. He replied that he could not do so, as he was going on by the express to Christchurch. He said if the man were brought down he would examine him. Asked the station-master for a trolly to fetch in the body, but could not obtain one. I took an engine and wagon and went back. I found a trolly already there. I assisted the constable to put the body on the trolly. Asked the constable whether I should take the man on to Christchurch. He said I had better leave him at Rakaia. He said he could manage very well without me. I then proceeded to Christchurch with my train. I told Dr. Ross, when I again saw him, that the man was dead. It could not be more than a minute and a half from the time of the accident till the surface men were on the spot. Ido not know of my own knowledge whether the man had been a passenger in the train. I saw no one drunk in the train. The bar at the middle of the uprights on the carriage platforms is not movable. Those bars have all been rivited by order of the Commissioner of Railways. It was scarcely possible to stop the train. If the man had fallen from the side of the train he would have fallen clear. I could not communicate with the driver on that day. I could have brought up the train within 300 yards. We generally have communication with the driver, but on this occasion extra carriages had been put on, and communication was broken. Notices , are posted on all the carriages, cautioning passengers against remaining on the platforms of the carriages. If I had had communication with the driver I should not have used it on this occasion. I could have communicated with the driver quite as quickly with the brake. Clement Duncan, sworn—l am assistant cashier on the railway. I was in the train when the accident happened on Saturday ; I went back to the place after the train had stopped, but I know nothing me re about the accident. Henry Gibbins, sworn, said—l saw the deceased get into the train at Ashburton on Saturday last. I have seen the body now lying at the Rakaia Hotel. I recognise it as the body of the man who fell out of the train at Rakaia. He seemed very jolly while in the train ; he sang a song. He took a flask of brandy from his pocket and offered it round. He seemed a little the worse for drink. There was no larking or playing going on in the carriage at the time. I came outside and sat on the platform with my feet on the step. Deceased came out and sat directly over the buffer and couplings. Heard some one cry out “He’s gone!” I looked round and saw the last of him. He could not have sat there more than two minutes before he fell. I went inside and pulled the signal cord. The trains slackened speed but did not stop. The accident happened about a quarter of a mile south of Rakaia station.

The Coroner having summed up, the jury returned a verdict of “ Accidental death.” The jury added a rider to the effect that in their opinion the iron guard on the platform of the carriages is not sufficient protection for passengers, and that there should be a bar nearer the floor.

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INQUEST AT RAKAIA. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 86, 13 April 1880

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