11 July 2003 - TICKET inspectors have been accused of stopping a teenager from buying a $1.10 ticket just seconds before he jumped from a fast-moving train.
Friends said Gavin Slipais, 15, was told "Bad luck, it's too late" by an inspector when he tried to buy a fare. Gavin, who is in a critical condition in the Royal Children's Hospital with major head injuries, then joined three friends who were being questioned by an inspector and stood by the train door.
"I was sitting looking straight at him standing at the door . . . then he opened it, had a look and jumped," said horrified mate Nick Guest.
The Frankston-bound train was travelling about 80km/h when the teenager jumped near Bittern, on the Mornington Peninsula.
Gavin's family said he had been on his way to his grandmother's house to do some odd jobs.
The boy's friends yesterday accused the inspectors of not using their mobile phones to call for help and continuing to check fares after the incident.
Operator M>Train has launched an inquiry and it will examine the allegations.
But Gavin's parents Phillip Austerberry and Michelle Slipais last night were demanding answers.
Mr Austerberry said Gavin appeared scared before jumping.
"His mate, Nick, said he started walking around in a daze after trying to buy a ticket and appeared scared . . . next minute he was gone," said a distraught Mr Austerberry.
"Nick said Gavin was lying there outside, all limp and mangled and not moving, and he knew something was wrong.
"He's 15 years old, but he's basically a kitten. He's never been in trouble with the police, never rides his push-bike without a helmet. He has a motorbike and he's never taken that out of our property without asking first.
"But all we can do is wait at the moment."
Mr Austerberry said he wanted to know why the inspectors did not use their mobile phones to call for help for his son, who is in a coma.
"They could have used them right after Gavin went out,"he said.
"The inspectors who were on the train Ė why the hell didn't they stop the train or ring police, why did they leave him to die on the side of the train tracks?
"His mates had to run across to Hastings police station and the police then found him on the side of the train tracks."
Gavin's friends Nick Guest, Troy Gorton and Kylie Haggerty said they were shocked to see their mate jump.
Nick and Kylie said the inspectors continued to check tickets even as the trio frantically pleaded for their help.
"I was just shocked, it wasn't real," Kylie said. "They just went on with their business and I said, `C'mon, stop the train'.
"He said, `All right, let's get the rest of your details'."
Nick said the inspector "shrugged his shoulders a bit and said, `Hmph'."
Kylie said if the inspectors had called ahead to stop the train, emergency services would have attended earlier than the 20 minutes it took before friends alerted them.
Police said on Wednesday witnesses, not inspectors, were the first to report the incident.
Kylie said Gavin boarded the train with her boyfriend, Troy, at Crib Point and the group was joined by mutual friend Nick at another station.
Nick immediately asked Gavin if he had bought a ticket because he had seen plain-clothes inspectors on the two-carriage Stony Point-to-Frankston train.
As he watched, Gavin walked into the next carriage to buy a $1.10 student concession ticket from a coin-operated machine.
Nick said his mate was intercepted by a female inspector and told, "Bad luck, it's too late".
Nick's mother, Lyndell Guest, said the inspectors had a lot to answer for.
"The way they treat the kids on the train is appalling and for something like this to happen is shocking," Mrs Guest said.
"They are intimidating, they speak to them in a belittling manner, and as far as I am concerned they are just there as a revenue raising business picking on children."
Mr Austerberry said Gavin hated confrontation.
"He's not an argumentative type of kid. He would run at the thought of a fight and he gave up footy last year because it was getting too rough," he said.
Rail, Tram and Bus Union state secretary Trevor Dobbyn said the inspectors were co-operating with the company investigation.
Transport Minister Peter Batchelor said it was a tragic set of circumstances.
Leap of fear: boy's family want answers
By HOLLY LLOYD-McDONALD and JON RALPH
Friends tell of a happy boy
By HOLLY LLOYD-McDONALD
AS gentle as a kitten, easy-going and up for a laugh.
That's how friends and family described Gavin Slipais, whose life hangs in the balance after a tragic train incident on Wednesday.
Gavin, 15, is in a coma with major head injuries at Royal Children's Hospital after jumping from a Frankston-bound train to avoid ticket inspectors.
His father Phillip Austerberry said Gavin was heading from Crib Point to his grandmother's Hastings home to help around the house, picking up leaves and mowing the grass.
"Wednesdays she has off work and it's the school holidays too so he was going to Hastings to help her out around the house and mow lawns for his $20," Mr Austerberry said. "That's the sort of kid he is.
"It's totally out of character this one."
Gavin's best friend Nick Guest, 15, was on the train during Wednesday's drama. "The inspectors are just pricks and they don't care - they are always on the line and intimidating everyone. It's all about raising revenue," he said.
"I was at the door watching, with my head out as Gavin hit the ground and rolled and the inspector didn't do something and I couldn't work out why.
"It could just happen to anyone. Gav was there lying for about 20 minutes and he could have been looked after sooner."
Nick spent Wednesday night at a mutual friend's house. The boys watched DVDs quietly in a backyard caravan.
"We said there was just one thing missing -- Gavin," Nick said.
"He would have loved to have been there with us, just watching DVDs.
"He is just a quiet, respectful guy."
Nick's mother Lyndell Guest described Gavin as a quiet boy from a close-knit family who loved to go fishing in Westernport Bay, motorbike riding and camping.
"He is a normal teenager and not some kid just jumping off the train for the sake of it -- that's not the case here at all," Mrs Guest said.
"Gavin was a very timid boy. He had tried twice to get a ticket, but the inspectors were speaking down to him and he was just scared," she alleged.
Mrs Guest said Gavin may have believed he could have made the jump safely in the split-second before he opened the doors.
"He would have thought, 'I will jump out and land on the grass and walk home'.
"He hated conflict and he must have thought he was going to get into trouble. So to save the fine he jumped, and thought he'd probably get up and walk home."
Inspectors scare us, youths say
By JON RALPH
HORDES of teenagers flooded the 1.30pm train from Stony Point to Frankston yesterday, offering rich pickings for M>Train ticket inspectors chasing school holiday fare evaders.
Among them was Stacey Slipais, riding into the city to visit her cousin Gavin, who lies in a coma in Royal Children's Hospital.
Gavin jumped from a train on the same line 24 hours earlier to dodge ticket inspectors.
A shattered Stacey said ticket inspectors often gave her group of friends grief. "I'm really scared of them . . . Gavin's like a brother to me," she said.
Dozens of teens, capitalising on the last few days of freedom, piled on to the train yesterday aware they could be ambushed by inspectors, whose critics claim are short on compassion and too eager to impose fines.
Most bought tickets from the electronic dispensing machine on board because, unlike at city stations, there is no chance to buy them on the platform.
Some passengers, like Gavin on Wednesday, forget or refuse.
He was on the way to visit his grandmother in Hastings, only 10 minutes from Crib Point, but only got as far as a grassy embankment just south of the town.
Teenagers on the train yesterday said teams of up to six ticket inspectors used intimidating tactics and dished out fines.
Bittern resident Robbie John stone, 16, rides the train to and from Stony Point most days to see if the flathead are biting.
Yesterday he alleged the ticket inspectors sometimes refused to accept reasonable explanations, often fining teenagers before they had a chance to buy a ticket.
"They stick a badge in your face and say, 'Give us a look at your ticket'. There is no need for the attitude. They hassle a lot of people," Robbie said.
Fishing mate Bobby Kuipers, 15, said teens were easily intimidated by inspectors.
"Fair enough, they might fine kids without tickets, but they stand around kids looking at them as if to say, 'If you fire up you are in big trouble'."
Jumping from the train, however irrational, is easy.
With a flick of the wrist, the passenger doors swing wide open.
Why did he jump?
PHILIP Austerberry, the justifiably angry father of 15-year-old Gavin Slipais, is demanding answers.
He wants to know what led his son to jump from a moving train near Hastings on Wednesday night.
Gavin was critically hurt after opening the door and leaping out at up to 80km/h.
The teenager was travelling with two other boys and a girl and was on his way to Hastings to help his grandmother.
His companions have told police he had joined the train only three minutes earlier at a station where there was no ticket machine Ė the perennial problem on Victoria's rail system.
There were inspectors on the train. His companions say Gavin got up to go to the second of the two carriages, where there was a ticket machine, to get a $1.10 ticket.
His companions say he was prevented from reaching the machine by an inspector who told him he had left it too late.
For some reason Gavin jumped. M>Train says the doors on any of its trains can be opened from inside while in motion.
The train did not stop. Gavin's companions had to wait until it reached the next station, Hastings, where they ran to the police station to get help.
It took about 20 minutes before an ambulance reached the badly hurt boy lying beside the track.
It is too soon to lay blame. In fairness to all involved, only a thorough inquiry can answer the riddle of why he jumped.
Herald Sun Editorial
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