Headphones theory in New Plymouth train death
The man who died after being hit by a train in New Plymouth on Monday afternoon may have been listening to music on his headphones, police say.
New Plymouth Senior Constable Darren Hayes confirmed a pair of headphones was found at the scene near the waterfront.
Witnesses have described hearing a train's horn continually blasted in the moments before it hit and killed the man on the tracks.
Hayes said officers had identified the local man, who he said was 27 years old, and were in the process of notifying his extended family.
Relatives had told the police the man liked to listen to music turned up loud while on the New Plymouth walkway and it appeared it was an unfortunate accident.
The fatal collision happened about 1pm on Monday on the corner of Weymouth St and Bulkeley Tce, where the New Plymouth coastal walkway crosses the railway tracks and passes the Todd Energy Aquatic Centre.
Hayes said the man was approaching the crossing from Weymouth St and heading towards the sea.
"Initial reports from a number of witnesses is that the train was continuously sounding its horn upon approach," Hayes said.
"The victim did not acknowledge or notice the train in any fashion and just stepped out."
Hayes said a number of witnesses saw the incident, although it did not appear that any children, who also were in the area at the time, saw the collision.
"All appropriate services are investigating but we are still trying to establish any further details," he said.
Hayes said Victim Support would be talking to the witnesses.
"It's obviously fairly traumatic for witnesses, it's a nice sunny day and there was a lot of people on the walkway," Hayes said.
New Plymouth police also asked that the public stay away from the area until the scene had been properly examined.
The train was heading west towards Port Taranaki but was an engine only and carrying no freight. The train was specifically used for shunting shipping containers between the Smart Rd freight depot and the port.
Bill Donohue, who has lived close to where the man was hit for 15 years, said the area was an accident waiting to happen, but thought it was inattention from walkers, instead of the design of the crossing, that made it dangerous.
"I think they've done it well. It's just people don't look," he said.
"I wasn't here, but my wife was and she just heard the train.
"People obviously walked across there with headphones. You can't blame the railways," Donohue said.
KiwiRail senior communications advisor Julie Buchanan said the driver had been relieved of his duties and given support and counselling.
"Although the cause of the collision is not yet known, safety is KiwiRail's number one priority and the area around the crossing is fenced with fluorescent yellow 'Look for Trains' signs on both sides of the tracks," she said.
"Our message to the public is to be vigilant at all times when near the rail corridor and treat all crossings as they would any other road intersection."
A local kaumatua has since been on site to bless the scene.