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Truck’s narrow escape at train crossing

A near miss at a level crossing in Masterton has triggered memories of a decades-old tragedy.

A Masterton resident who witnessed a truck and trailer barrel through the Ngaumutawa Rd crossing on Thursday night said she was shaken for a long time after.

“It brought back memories of the teacher who was hit by a train there.

“I came across the mangled wreck minutes after it happened.”

In December 1997, Paul Brandt died after a train struck his car at the level crossing.

The witness to Thursday’s incident, who the Times-Age has agreed not to name, said the arms were down and signal lights at the level crossing flashing when the truck drove straight through at about 7.30pm.

“He was heading up Ngaumutawa Rd [north] – it was a massive truck and it just smashed straight through the arms.

“It was loud. I got such a fright. He hit the arm hard enough to make it explode. It went up in the air before landing on the tracks.”

She said seconds later, the train came through heading north.

“Next minute, all hell broke loose. It hit the arm and the racket was incredible as it churned under the train.”

The witness said the truck driver hesitated momentarily on the other side of the tracks before driving off.

She said the train was initially forced to a stop, but while she was calling emergency services it began slowly moving toward Solway Station.

She said it was lucky the train was already slowing.

“I really shook for ages imagining the what ifs. A few seconds later the train would have hit the truck – it could have derailed. It was noisy, and so scary.”

Police confirmed they received a report of an incident at the Ngaumutawa Rd level crossing and said the information is being assessed.

Metlink and KiwiRail said they were aware of the incident.

KiwiRail executive general manager of operations Paul Ashton confirmed there were no injuries and the barrier arm had been fixed.

“The barrier came to a rest on the track and the train went over it.

“The train came to a stop for 20 minutes while personnel checked for any damage, then continued to Masterton,” he said.

“Level crossing warning lights and barrier arms are there for a good reason – to ensure that motorists and pedestrians are kept safe around rail lines. It is important that people obey the rules around level crossings.”

KiwiRail and TrackSafe said the number of collisions with trains had increased in the 12 months to June 30, 2022.

Nationally, there were 313 incidents, with the number of collisions at levels crossings doubling.

Of the three near misses in Wairarapa last year, two were recorded as between vehicles and trains at level crossings.

The organisations said there had been a “slight increase” in the number of near misses over the past year, but the increase in the number of collisions was significant.

“The number of collisions at public level crossings alone has doubled – from 13 to 28.”

KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said train accidents are unforgiving and trains rarely have the means to avoid a crash.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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