A woman was left “convulsing” and “smoking” when she fell on to live rails at a busy tube station on Friday night in London.
Witnesses told the Guardian that the woman, who survived the incident, appeared to be “jostled” by busy crowds at Tottenham Court Road station before falling on to the tracks shortly before 12.50am. One called the accident “entirely preventable”.
However, the fall was understood to be initially viewed by Transport for London (TfL) as the result of a “medical incident”. One witness said that the woman did not put her arms out when she fell. An urgent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident is under way, TfL said.
It occurred amid severe delays and crowding at stations due to strike action by the RMT union. The woman, who fell off the eastbound Central line platform, was treated at the scene by medics before being taken to a major trauma centre.
One witness, who did not want to be named, said that the platform was extremely crowded and that it had been 15 minutes since the previous train. In an account provided to the Guardian, she said: “A lady was screaming, telling everyone to run and I was petrified more were going to fall on the tracks or get crushed in the panic.”
The witness said the woman “was completely stuck on the current, convulsing”. Saying that four people climbed down to help, the witness added: “She was obviously turning to prepare to cram on the tube and the pushing on the platform launched her.
“Her body was all the way on the further side [of the] track … She went so far.”
The witness said she had commented to a friend about how overcrowded the section of the platform had become moments before the woman fell. She added that she raised the alarm in a call to station staff after a man on the platform slumped to the floor in shock after pressing the emergency button.
She added: “There was smoke coming from all over her. All the paramedics were running down with defibrillators.
“They knew the strikes would cause severe delays and yet had no one managing the crowding. Not even an overhead announcement saying spread down the platform.”
A TfL spokesperson said announcements were made throughout the night advising people to move along platforms, and that staff were on duty at the station.
However, another witness, who wished to remain anonymous, said they saw “no staff” and claimed it was “entirely preventable”.
She said: “Everyone was kind of jostling for space on the platform and it was just so ridiculously dangerous and no staff anywhere.
“I can’t believe these strikes were happening and didn’t provide adequate staff. This accident could have been prevented. I think she was turning ready to get on the train or something and next thing she was face down on the tracks.
She added: “I genuinely just assumed she was dead. I don’t see how someone could be smoking like that and survive. It is just so awful.
“She was convulsing, but some people on the platform didn’t seem to know what was going on. I can’t believe nobody else fell too. But no staff, nothing. This was entirely preventable.”
The station was closed for 45 minutes while emergency services handled the incident.
Nick Dent, director of customer operations for London Underground, said: “We are urgently investigating the incident that took place at Tottenham Court Road tube station at around 12.45am this morning where a customer fell on to tracks.
“We would like to reassure customers that the safety of everyone on our network is always our top priority and our station staff immediately attended the incident. The customer was subsequently taken to hospital by London ambulance service.
“A full investigation with all the relevant authorities into the circumstances of this incident will be carried out.”
A London ambulance service spokesperson said: “We sent an incident response officer, an advanced paramedic and two ambulance crews to the scene.
“We treated a woman at the scene and took her to a major trauma centre.” No details were given on the woman’s condition.
British Transport Police were also approached for comment.