A YOUNG man was electrocuted as he and a friend stole copper cables from a railway line, an inquest heard.

Paul Fowkes, 20, was killed while trespassing on railway tracks near Fort Road, Tilbury, last July.

An inquest at County Hall in Chelmsford yesterday, heard how Mr Fowkes, of Kelvin Road, Tilbury, and his friend, Jay Cosans, 22, went to the railway line at around midnight to steal copper cables.

Speaking at the inquest, Mr Cosans, of Leighton Gardens, Tilbury, said the pair went onto the tracks at Dock Road, near Tilbury station, at around 1am, and walked towards East Tilbury station.

He said he and Mr Fowkes had already collected three or four copper wires, which they left coiled at the side of the track, ready to pick up later, when tragedy struck.

Mr Cosans added: “We saw another cable and Paul managed to pull it down, but the other end flicked up and hit a live cable.

“There was an orange flash and I heard him scream and he collided with me.

“I remember getting up off the floor, I had bad burns on my left hand and my trainer had come off.

“Then I saw him lying there. I didn’t know what to do. I panicked for a bit and then called an ambulance.”

The jury and Mr Fowkes’s family, who attended the inquest, were told the frantic friend was on the phone to paramedics for 45 minutes while they talked him through giving he victim CPR.

But it was too late for Mr Fowkes, who was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after 3am.

Also giving evidence at the inquest was Gary Mathias, coroner’s liaison officer for British Transport Police, who explained how Mr Fowkes was electrocuted.

He said: “The cable must have come into contact with the overhead line, which was live.

“The copper cable carries no charge.”

He also said cases of stealing copper wire were common.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

Addressing the Fowkes family, Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray said: “Paul was clearly a much-loved young man and I hope you will be able to dwell upon all the happy and positive memories of him you have.”

Mr Cosans was taken to hospital and later arrested for attempted cable theft.

He pleaded guilty at Basildon Magistrates’ Court and was given a 12-month community order, as part of which he must complete 150 hours community service.