'Short-cut' courier van wiped out by train
A courier driver had just gone for help after his van became stuck on railway tracks when it was wiped out by a passing train.
Initial reports suggested the courier driver had parked his van on train tracks while delivering a parcel to a house near Oaro, about 20km south of Kaikoura, on Wednesday evening.
However, Kaikoura police Constable Tony Willetts said the van had been stuck on the trucks when the crash happened about 6.10pm.
It remains unclear how it became stuck.
The New Zealand Couriers driver thought he was driving over a railway crossing when his van got stuck about 20 centimetres over the line.
The driver went to get help from a neighbour when he heard a train approach and smash into his vehicle.
Kaikoura police responded to the incident, but no one was hurt in the collision. Rail services had since resumed.
A New Zealand Couriers staff member in Christchurch today said the driver was fine following the incident.
The staff member said the train had "clipped" the courier driver's vehicle, and referred The Press to the company's head office for further comment.
Vehicle salvager Ian Walker towed the damaged van back to his Kaikoura yard, where it remained today.
He said the driver had tried to take a shortcut across the train tracks just north of Oaro on State Highway 1, but got stuck.
"He definitely shouldn't have been where he was."
The driver was not from the Kaikoura area, Walker said.
DRIVERS URGED TO HEED WARNINGS
KiwiRail and police are urging motorists to obey level crossing warnings after 19 near collisions since the start of the year, where drivers crossed in front of approaching trains.
Twelve were at crossings protected by flashing lights and bells, in four incidents the motorists drove around other vehicles which had stopped, and one driver had to swerve to avoid the train.
KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn urged people to heed warnings, be patient, and not put themselves and passengers at risk.
"There is no journey so important that it can't wait a couple of minutes," he said.
"Trains are large and heavy, can be travelling faster that they appear and simply cannot stop quickly.
"There is nothing our train drivers can do when confronted with a situation like this other than to sound their horn and hope for the best. It is a very distressing situation for them."
In 2013, KiwiRail recorded 107 near collisions with vehicles at level crossings - 43 per cent at crossings with flashing lights and bells operating and 40 per cent with half-arm barriers operating.
In 2012, there were 154 near collisions reported, 83 per cent of which were at crossings with active protection.
TrackSAFE NZ manager Megan Drayton said a disproportionate 63 per cent of "reckless and impatient" near collisions happened in the South Island.
Five out of the 19 were on the railway line between Rolleston and Greymouth, and four on the railway line between Christchurch and Invercargill.
Police inspector Mark Stables said it was a traffic offence to ignore warnings.