Little girls to bury their dad

'WHAT PRICE A LIFE?': Glen and Lorrin Lyons.
'WHAT PRICE A LIFE?': Glen and Lorrin Lyons.

Two little girls will bury their dad on Christmas Eve today.

Glen Lyons, 38, was killed when a milk train hit his truck at the uncontrolled Powdrell Rd crossing on the outskirts of Woodville as he drove home from work last Wednesday evening.

A funeral is being held for Lyons in Pahiatua today. Among the mourners are his two little girls aged 3 and 6, whose dad never came home from his job delivering firewood to a nearby farm.

"The reality for me hasn't hit yet," widow Lorrin Angelini-Lyons said. "It's the hardest news in the world to have to tell your 6-year-old that her dad has been killed by a train. The first thing she said to me was: it can't be, because the [barrier] arms would have come down.

"I was trying to explain to a 6-year-old that there were no arms."

It was still daylight but the crossing had no bells, lights or barrier arms as it has low-traffic volumes.

The feeling that the collision that caused her husband's death might not have occurred if safety barriers were in place lingered, Angelini-Lyons said. "What price do you put on a life?"

She had sympathy for the train driver.

"I do want him to know he shouldn't feel guilt. I want him to know that I don't blame him.

"It's horrible for drivers, that they are put in this situation. They can't avoid it. I feel very sorry for him or her. Imagine driving along and knowing you have killed the person going in front of you."

Lyons is one of two people killed on railway tracks in Manawatu in the past week.

A man, aged in his 40s, was confirmed dead after being struck by a train in Palmerston North early on Saturday morning. Police have yet to release details of that incident.

The collision that killed Lyons came on the same day KiwiRail and the Chris Cairns Foundation launched a rail safety campaign.

The nationwide toll of 21 for 2012 so far is low compared with previous years and now includes 16 pedestrians who were "trespassing", two deaths in vehicle level-crossing collisions and three at pedestrian level-crossings, with four of the total deaths occurring in the midcentral region.

KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn urged people to take care around rail crossings.

"Fatal collisions, such as the one that occurred near Woodville, are a personal tragedy and a reminder to road users and pedestrians to take extra care at level-crossings and to always ensure the line is clear of trains before entering a crossing."

A KiwiRail spokeswoman said the train driver had immediately been given time off.

"Our drivers are often the forgotten victims in collisions and near misses. Train drivers involved in accidents are relieved of their duties immediately and given as much time as they need before returning to work. Counselling is available, if they wish to take up that option."

In August, a woman was killed in Dannevirke by a train travelling from Napier to Palmerston North.

And this time last year, Rosalyn "Sylvia" Yong, 69, died when her car was hit by a northbound train at an uncontrolled Horowhenua crossing.

Palmerston North coroner Tim Scott called for safety improvements to the crossing after the collision.

Rail safety campaigner and former New Zealand cricketer Chris Cairns' sister died on a passenger train in Christchurch in 1993, when a truck failed to stop at a level-crossing and ploughed into the train.

Manawatu Standard