A TEENAGE boy was left fighting for his life this week after being hit by a train on his birthday.

Ben Woods, of Banks Terrace, Hurworth, lost his left arm and leg in the accident, which happened the East Coast Main Line south of Darlington on Monday.

Police believe that Ben - who was 17 that day - had stepped out of the way of an oncoming express directly into the path of another train travelling on a parallel line.

A shocked friend who saw the accident called the emergency services on his mobile phone.

Police and paramedics attended the scene close to Hilltop Farm, near Hurworth.

Ben lost his arm in the accident. He was flown by the Yorkshire Air Ambulance Service to the James Cook helicopter landing site in Middlesbrough and taken to Middlesbrough General Hospital where surgeons amputated his leg.

Ben's friend was taken to Darlington Memorial Hospital where he was treated for shock.

The accident happened at about 3.15pm on a stretch of line with a top speed in excess of 70mph.

British Transport Police were investigating how and why the teenager came to be on the tracks.

Paramedic Mike Lindley, air support manager for the air ambulance service, was one of those who arrived on the scene at about 3.40pm.

He said: "He had been walking on the rails with his friend, there was a train coming towards him and he stepped off the track on to the other line and was hit by a train coming the other way."

Staff at Darlington's Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, where Ben had just completed his AS level exams, said they were desperately sad and felt immense sympathy for his family.

Principal David Heaton said: "Everybody who knows him, all his teachers and the teaching staff, are really desperately sad that this has happened, because he's a very likeable young man.

"We were looking forward to him starting his A-levels in August."

Ben was studying sociology, English literature and law. He had attended Hummersknott School until a year ago.

Sgt Mitch Bateman, of the British Transport Police, said: "I don't know the circumstances as to how he came on to the line. It just emphasises the dangers of going on to the line - you can't emphasise that enough. People go on to railway lines and it is a dangerous place. There is no other way to put it."