Railway crossing claims second life

Last updated 15:15 20/02/2013

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Wairarapa News

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A teenage driver slammed on his brakes moments before colliding with a commuter train, but was too late to save his passenger.

Grace Ellen Diedrichs, 15, from Carterton, died after the force of the collision flung her 20 metres from the crumpled ute on Sunday morning.

It was the second death at the uncontrolled rail crossing on Wiltons Rd, between Carterton and Masterton. t is the Daniel Robert Quin died after his ute drove into the side of a train in 2002.

Carterton Mayor Ron Mark said it raised serious questions about the safety at the crossing.

John Painter, 17, was driving a Mitsubishi ute down Wiltons Rd at 8.10am. At the same time, the 7.50am train from Masterton to Wellington was hurtling south about 100kmh.

The ute T-boned the train, puncturing its fuel tank. The impact crushed the vehicle's bonnet and passenger side, sending it spinning off the road.

Grace was flung from the ute and Jonathan, who remained in the vehicle, suffered head injuries.

Senior Sergeant Carolyn Watson, of Masterton, said short skid marks on the road indicated Jonathan tried to brake moments before colliding with the train.

"I don't know why he didn't see it till then," she said.

Jonathan is from Pahiatua, where he works as apprentice butcher for his step-father, Wayne Roache, at Mangatainoka Meats.

Ms Watson said the train driver was "extremely shaken" but it appeared none of the passengers suffered injuries.

The Wiltons Rd rail crossing was the scene of a similar fatality in 2002. Daniel Robert Quin died after his ute crashed into the side of a train.

Mr Mark said there were many uncontrolled crossings in the Wairarapa and people needed to take care. Two fatalities in similar circumstances meant the crossing might need barriers or lights.

"If there has been more than one fatality that is of real concern."

Megan Drayton, who manages the railroad safety-focused Chris Cairns Foundation, said Grace's death was a devastating reminder of the need to take extra care at rail crossings. But though barriers or lights might help, education was more important, she said.

Nearly half of all train and vehicle collisions happened at crossings with barriers or lights. Upgrading the crossing was not the only solution.

A KiwiRail spokeswoman said the fatality would be assessed and the crossing could be prioritised for an upgrade. The decision would take into account the accidents, traffic volumes and any hazards such as poor visibility. Fairfax NZ

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- Wairarapa News

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