Two killed after West Coast train hits car

BLAIR ENSOR AND NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 18:26 21/05/2014
west coast train crash
JASON BLAIR

TRAIN CRASH: Two people died when a train collided with a car north of Reefton, on the South Island's West Coast, just before 1pm on Wednesday.

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A husband and wife are dead after a train collided with their car on the South Island's West Coast.

Emergency services were called to the crash on Landing Creek Rd, north of Reefton, just before 1pm today.

Police confirmed tonight that the couple were from Reefton. Their names will not be released until next of kin have been notified.

No-one else was injured in the crash, Henderson said.

A nearby farmer, who did not want to be named, said she was "pretty freaked out" to find out there had been a second fatal train crash within a 2km stretch of road near her home this year.

Jane Sluys, 56, died in Christchurch Hospital just over a week after her ute was hit by a train as she left her Swamp Creek Rd property on January 23.

"It's a bit of a shock," the farmer said. "I hope it's not the same [train] driver ... that would be absolutely dreadful."

She feared the victims would be someone she knew from the local community.

"We're just sort of waiting to hear."

The train track ran alongside the state highway, and was crossed by multiple farm roads, protected by stop or give way signs.

Coal trains ran "through the day and night" between Westport and Reefton, the farmer said.

"I've looked both ways and sometimes not seen [a train] until the last minute, but I've been able to stop in time."'

The farmer said she had been taking extra care at train crossings in the area since the death of Sluys, her friend, and often used an underpass to avoid crossing the track altogether.

Rebecca Inwood said she tried to visit a property her family owned on Landing Creek Rd about 1.30pm but was turned away by emergency services.

"We tried driving up there because we didn't know about the accident. There were half a dozen police, and a couple of fire engines."

She did not recognise the vehicle involved, but said it appeared the vehicle had been heading towards the state highway when the crash happened.

"It was so mangled. They were just in the process of putting a tarp over it."

KiwiRail has confirmed a coal train heading towards Westport was involved in this afternoon's crash.

The level crossing was protected by Give Way signs and no previous crashes had ever been recorded at that spot, said KiwiRail spokesman David Miller in a statement.

"KiwiRail's thoughts and sympathy are with the families of those involved."

Miller said such incidents were also distressing for staff, and drivers were relieved of their duties for three days and offered counselling "as a matter of course". 

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- The Press

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