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TUBE LAD DRAGGED TO DEATH BY COAT JAMMED IN DOOR; Probe after tragedy of foster boy Ajit, 9.

Schoolboy Ajit Singh was dragged to his death under a Tube train after his anorak toggle got stuck in the doors, it was revealed yesterday.

Ajit's foster dad struggled in vain to prise open the doors as the train pulled out of a station.

Angry rail union chiefs said the disaster would never have happened if guards had not been scrapped from parts of the Underground.

Little Ajit, nine, was pulled along the platform as commuters watched in horror. A family friend said: "What amazed his foster dad more than anything is that while he was struggling with the doors, nobody pulled the communication cord.

"He was screaming `help me' but no-one came to his aid. The train stopped but by then it was too late.

"The foster family are inconsolable. They will never get over it."

Ajit was caught when the Piccadilly line train moved out of Holborn station in central London.

He started running as he desperately tried to free himself from the door. But after being dragged 75 yards Ajit was hurled into a barrier and then fell under the wheels. The lad, from Tottenham, died instantly.

Witness Tina Powell, 24, said Ajit's body was wrapped in a red blanket before being removed.

Secretary Tina, from Southgate, said: "It was a tragic sight - how small he looked. It was just so sad."

Trains will normally not move if there is any obstruction between the automatic doors. But the thin toggle string was too small to trigger the mechanism.

Ajit's foster father - who has not been named - was treated for shock. He has been too distraught to talk to police. The youngster's natural parents have been informed.

Commuters who saw the tragedy have been offered counselling.

Yesterday, as a major inquiry was launched, union chiefs blasted London Underground for putting lives at risk to save money. Just 24 hours before Ajit's death RMT rail union officials had met Underground bosses to urge them to reinstate guards on all services.

In a bid to save pounds 50million staff have been replaced with closed circuit TV screens on platforms. Only the Northern line has guards - but these too will soon go.

A union spokesman said: "This should never have happened. It is the sort of accident guards and platform staff would be able to prevent."

RMT boss Jimmy Knapp added: "This emphasises the need for guards to be reintroduced on all services as a matter of urgency."

London Underground last night refused to comment.
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Shaw, Adrian; Pilditch, David
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 23, 1997
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