'Huge mess' after train hits truck

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 12:57 28/05/2013
Train crash
JOHN HOBBS/Fairfax NZ

MESSY IMPACT: The locomotive was covered in debris during the collision with the truck.

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Sunstrike appears to be to blame for a collision between a train and truck at an Ashburton railway crossing today.

Emergency services were called to the uncontrolled Northpark Rd crossing about 9.10am.

A KiwiRail train had gone through the middle of a Verkerks truck and trailer unit as it was crossing the railway lines, scattering empty crates from the truck and other debris.

Part of the truck was plastered to the front of the train cab and one crate ended up on top of the locomotive.

Both drivers escaped unscathed.

Verkerks operations manager Dave Graham said the eastbound truck driver, a Christchurch man in his 40s, had been blinded by the sun and was unable to see the train.

He had initially stopped, but because there were no lights, alarms or barrier arms, he had decided to travel across.

Graham said the driver was on his regular route to the nearby abattoir and had driven over the crossing at least 100 times.

There were about 1000 empty crates in the truck and trailer, used to store packaged meat.

"At certain times with the sun rising, it is almost impossible to see the train," Graham said.

"As the sun is rising above the horizon, it's just blinding. He'd actually stopped and then carried on through."

While the truck cab appeared largely undamaged, there was "nothing left" of the 12-metre trailer, which remained partly attached to the rest of the truck.

Graham said the crossing was "certainly quite dangerous" and both drivers were "very lucky to walk away from that".

While Verkerks had not complained to KiwiRail as a business, he knew of many locals who had.

Staff were on the scene cleaning up the crates and waiting on insurance assessors, he said.

A Fire Service spokesman said there would be an investigation into how the two collided.

There was a "huge cleanup required", he said.

A KiwiRail spokeswoman said the last collision at the site was in 2002.

She said the crossing was ranked 14 on its upgrade priority list, with an upgrade scheduled for the 2014 financial year.

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- Stuff

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