An IT expert lay undiscovered for up to seven hours after falling down stairs to his death at a Tube station.
Bernard Ovu, 35, is believed to have become trapped in an emergency stairwell at Canning Town station after mistakenly entering a staff-only door which slammed shut behind him.
According to initial reports provided to his family, he spent up to an hour trying to find a way out before falling and hitting his head on a concrete step. It was not until around seven hours later, just before 9.30am on January 22, that British Transport Police were called after the discovery of his body.
A joint investigation is now under way involving the BTP, alongside Transport for London and the Government’s Office of Road and Rail.
The Standard has learned that the inquiry is focused on whether the emergency door alarm sounded and why staff overseeing the station’s 24-hour Jubilee line Night Tube service did not discover his body sooner.
Mr Ovu’s family today told the Standard they are desperate for answers, saying: “Bernard should not have been allowed to die like that.”
The IT systems support worker, who worked for the Bar Council, was heading home after being at a wedding earlier in the day.
He took a Jubilee line service to Canning Town alone after saying goodbye to a friend at Canada Water station.
He is thought to have entered a door leading off the first-floor Jubilee line platform into a secure stairwell leading down to the main station concourse.
Born in Aberdeen to Nigerian parents, Mr Ovu grew up in Nigeria before moving to London in 2001 to live with his aunt and uncle.
Speaking today from their home in Ashford, Middlesex, Joseph and Christina Ogun said they had treated their nephew “like a son”.
Mr Ogun, 61, said: “We don’t have the full story of what happened to Bernard, which is very painful for us. Without those answers, the grieving process is so much more difficult. He was full of life, and he had a bright future. We want to know what happened.
“He was a loving person, always willing to help people, always there for you. Since he passed, our lives have not been the same.”
The incident happened at Canning Town station
Investigators have told Mr Ovu’s family that an alarm sounded when he entered the emergency stairwell, said Mr Ogun. He added: “If you go through an emergency exit and an alarm goes off, surely someone should find out what is happening?
“They had a responsibility for health and safety of their passengers. We want justice to be done for the way Bernard died. We were expecting him to walk through the door that evening, but instead it was the police to tell us he was gone.”
The eldest of three brothers, Mr Ovu had been headhunted to work for barristers’ regulator the Bar Standards Council after impressing colleagues at the National Portrait Gallery.
Stephen Crowne, chief executive of the Bar Council, said: “Bernard managed to make a huge impression on all of us with his charismatic personality, good nature, always helpful attitude and a smile on his face. He will be greatly missed.”
Mr Ovu’s brother Steven, 32, said: “Everything is a mystery to me, nothing makes sense. I’m in shock. I’m still in denial. I play videos of him, I listen to his voice on my phone.”
He added: “I’ve seen my parents disintegrate and I lack words to comfort them. The thought that he will never speak to me again or embrace me again is paralysing.”
An inquest into Mr Ovu’s death was opened at Walthamstow Coroner’s Court yesterday.
Coroner’s officer Rod Quilter told the court that the 35-year-old had died from a head injury sustained in a fall down a flight of concrete stairs at the station, adding that there was CCTV footage of the incident. He said that foul play has now been ruled out.
Steve Griffiths, chief operating officer for London Underground, said: “Following the tragic death of Mr Ovu at Canning Town station on Sunday 22 January our thoughts are with his family and friends.
Following investigation into the tragedy, London Underground was served with an improvement notice by the Office of Rail and Road for breaking safety regulations. LU was criticised for having just one person in charge of Canning Town and neighbouring West Ham station due to cuts.
The ORR notice to LU stated: “Tou have failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of risks to your employees arising from lone working at the two stations and you have failed to put in place a safe system of work to avoid or control those risks”
Those in charge risk up to six months in jail and a fine if convicted of failing to carry out improvements by October 31.
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