An elderly man was in critical condition after his car and an oncoming train collided at a major intersection in Waikato.
The 76-year-old Paeroa man was travelling from Hamilton to Morrinsville when his car and a 700m train collided at the intersection of State Highway 26 and Piako Rd, Morrinsville. He was the sole occupant of the vehicle.
Police, fire and ambulance services were called to the accident about 7pm and found the man with multiple injuries.
Morrinsville Deputy Fire Chief Officer Steve Turfrey said the man's car - a green Mazda Lantis - was found about 20m from the main intersection in a paddock.
"It was pitch black and cold ... and the car was just a mess.
"We sent out two appliances ... and used hydraulic rescue equipment to remove the driver's side and the dash [of the car].
"It took us about 20 minutes."
After the man was removed from his car, which was lying in a paddock next to the railway tracks, he was taken to Waikato Hospital by St John Ambulance.
Morrinsville Police Constable Erik Harrewijn was first on the scene and said the driver of the KiwiRail train had spotted the elderly man's car at some distance from the intersection.
"He [the train driver] got to about 30 metres away [from the intersection] and saw the car wasn't slowing.
"So he activated the horn [and] activated emergency breaks."
Mr Harrewijn said the train driver, who was on his way from Sulphur Pt, Tauranga to Hamilton, did everything he could to warn the Paeroa man.
"He simply failed to give way for the train. He didn't slow his speed at all and the train has collided as the vehicle crossed the track."
The train eventually came to a stop about 500m after the intersection.
KiwiRail staff were performing tests at the Morrinsville intersection, which is controlled by a stop sign and sounds warning bells and lights when a train is approaching. No faults in the lighting and warning bell systems were found.
Police are continuing to investigate the cause of the accident and had last night interviewed witnesses.
Mr Harrewijn told the Herald four vehicles had been following the man's car and had given accounts of what they had seen.
Mr Harrewijn also said the train driver, who is from Auckland, was shocked and upset, but uninjured from the collision.
Tonight's accident comes after the number of collisions at railway crossings had fallen to an all-time low.
Figures released by KiwiRail last month showed the average number of collisions at public road level crossings - the point at which the railway crosses over either a public or private road - were at one a month, down from three a month.