Horn blasts can't stop deadly crash

HARRY PEARL AND FLORENCE KERR
Last updated 05:00 28/02/2014

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Waikato truck crash
MIKE SCOTT/Fairfax NZ Zoom
The scene of a collision between a train and a truck in the Waikato. The crash killed the truck's driver.

Fatal train crash

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A witness has described hearing frantic tooting before watching a passenger train plough into a truck near Rangiriri - killing the truck's driver and ripping the truck's engine out.

A 28-year-old father and husband died in the crash on Te Onetea Rd after the articulated low loader he was driving collided with the Northern Explorer train, which was carrying 108 people, about 9.45am yesterday.

A woman at a nearby property said her son, who witnessed the smash but was too rattled to speak, watched the incident unfold.

She explained to the Waikato Times, what her son witnessed.

"He heard the frantic tooting and looked up and saw the thing crash into it."

The woman, who the Times agreed not to name, said after the impact her son saw dust flying into the air.

The truck's cab was almost completely demolished in the collision and the engine travelled 35 metres before stopping in a paddock adjacent to the tracks.

KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn said passengers on the train - which was travelling from Auckland to Wellington - were unharmed and victim support and counselling were available for those who needed it.

The driver of the train was taken to Auckland where he would be offered support, too.

"It's a very sad part of a railwayman's life that they are caught up in this type of thing. The only thing they can do is brake."

Speaking at Rangiriri yesterday afternoon, Waikato road policing manager Inspector Freda Grace said commenting on the cause of the crash would be premature, but she confirmed that investigations were under way.

"There has been a tragic loss of a 28-year-old man's life today," she said.

"This is tragic not just for the family, but for the man's co-workers and those nearby."

A friend of the man's wife told the Waikato Times that the couple were married last year, and have a three-year-old son together.

She said that friends of the woman went to be with her after hearing the news through a friend who worked at the site with the truck driver.

It is understood the man worked for Porter Group in Te Rapa.

Despite there being no barrier arms or signals at the crossing, Mr Quinn said the stop signs and visibility were adequate.

"It's a dirt road that is not used a lot, so that's probably the right level of security for that road."

He said there had been no previous incidents at the crossing.

The carriage of the train was not damaged in the crash and, once a replacement locomotive was driven up from Huntly, the train resumed its service to Wellington about 1.30pm.

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Ms Grace said the Waikato serious crash and commercial vehicle investigation units, along with KiwiRail, were investigating the incident.

The crash has been reported to the Waikato coroner and WorkSafe New Zealand.

TRACK RECORD

A total of 204 objects have been struck by trains, year ending July 2013 7: animals (not cattle) 58: Cattle 9: Motor vehicles 35: Rail equipment 5: Rocks or stones 12: Slips 37: Trees 41: "Other"

- Waikato Times

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