Train crash: 'Miracle' no one hurt

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 29/05/2013
Train crash
JOHN HOBBS/Fairfax NZ

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

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Charges are possible against the driver of a truck which collided with a southbound train at an uncontrolled rail crossing north of Ashburton.

The southbound KiwiRail train went through the middle of a Verkerks truck-and-trailer unit at the Northpark Rd crossing about 9.10am yesterday.

It appears the eastbound truck driver was blinded by the rising sun and did not see the train.

Empty meat crates and debris were strewn everywhere and part of the truck ended up stuck to the front of the train cab.

Police said it was a "miracle" both drivers escaped unscathed.

Many complaints have been made to KiwiRail about the lack of bells, lights and barrier arms at the crossing, especially since the Ashburton Business Estate was developed on paddocks either side of the railway lines.

Flashing lights and a bell system are due to be installed in the 2014 financial year.

Verkerks operations manager Dave Graham said the truck driver, a Christchurch man in his 40s, was on his regular route to the nearby abattoir.

The crossing was "quite dangerous", he said. "At certain times, it is almost impossible to see the train. 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 undamaged, there was "nothing left" of the 12-metre trailer.

Senior Sergeant Grant Russell said charges against the truck driver were "definitely" a possibility.

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

The crossing was ranked 14 on its upgrade priority list, which was based on a range of factors, not just fatalities, she said.

The crossing was so high on the list was because of the increase in traffic volumes.

During the past few years TransRail had received inquiries from the Ashburton District Council, the local meat company and the public about providing alarms at the crossing, she said.

"Today's collision involved a southbound train and the view of the approaching train would have been clear."

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- The Press

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