Whizzing over is not the solution

Owen Henry, 89, from New Plymouth has had trouble with his mobility scooter stalling when crossing train tracks along the costal walkway
Owen Henry, 89, from New Plymouth has had trouble with his mobility scooter stalling when crossing train tracks along the costal walkway

An incident in Auckland this week has Owen Henry thinking about his own close call on New Plymouth's railway line.

A 23-year-old woman is in a critical condition in Auckland City Hospital after being hit by a train when her wheelchair became stuck in the tracks on Monday.

"I thought about what had happened up in Auckland there and realised that could very well have been me," Mr Henry said yesterday.

The 89-year-old recently went for a jaunt on the city's foreshore and when he rode over the tracks at Kawaroa his mobility scooter shut down right in the middle of them.

"I couldn't move, the brakes were locked and everything. Even though there wasn't a train coming at the time, it was not a nice experience at all."

Mr Henry said passers-by eventually arrived on the scene and cleared him from the tracks.

It has happened to him about four times and he suspected it may be caused by the jarring as he crossed over the uneven surface.

"There's two ways you can go over these crossings. You can either whiz through it very fast or go through slowly. I think I probably tended to whiz through it," he said.

Mr Henry has now figured out how to get himself restarted should it happen in the future, by turning the key all the way off and back on again, which resets the vehicle.

He wanted to share his advice in case others faced a similar experience and may not be as lucky with the train schedule as he was.

"I guess it could save somebody's life."

He said there were three crossings which affected him along the foreshore, but did not feel they were poorly constructed.

"I don't think the crossings are unreasonable.

"Unfortunately it's just what happens. I don't know how they could improve it with the railway line in there."

Tom Neil, of Mobility Scooters Taranaki, said the vehicles would shut down or jam if uneven surfaces were hit at speed, or at the wrong angle.

He did not field many complaints about the running of his scooters that were not related either to the terrain, or operator.

"My advice is for all scooters to slow down when they go over the crossings, and even some of the other driveways which also have that raised channel," he said.

In Monday morning's incident an Auckland woman suffered head injuries and multiple fractures as her chair was hit and dragged by an oncoming freight train, despite the attempts of bystanders to free her.

KiwiRail has launched an investigation, alongside the police serious crash unit's inquiry.

The woman attempted to cross the tracks while barrier arms were up, but her chair became wedged in the gap and she was unable to move it. As the barriers came down and warning bells sounded, architecture graduate Matthieu Mereau, 24, and a female jogger, struggled to free her.

They managed to tip the chair, but the woman was dragged and the jogger injured her leg.

Taranaki Daily News