James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Teen hit and killed by train named

Police said the student came out of trees next to the line and into the path of the freight train. Photo / Christine Cornege
Police said the student came out of trees next to the line and into the path of the freight train. Photo / Christine Cornege

A 15-year-old boy who was killed yesterday after stepping out of a tree line and into the path of a freight train has been named.

Friends last night described how they frantically tried to call for help after witnessing the accident.

Matamata College pupil Zakariah Paul Lang had been walking with two friends near the tracks about 3pm yesterday when he was hit.

Police said he came out of trees next to the tracks and into the path of the train without warning, leaving the driver no time to stop.

Sergeant Graham McGurk, of Matamata police, said the tragedy highlighted the dangers of walking near railway lines.

"Initial indications are at that the trio have been near the tracks which run parallel to Firth St near Matamata College in an area where trees border both sides of the railway line.

"It appears the victim came out of the trees and into the path of the southbound locomotive without warning, leaving the train driver with no chance of avoiding hitting the boy."

Mr McGurk said a post-mortem examination will be carried out today.

"Police have been working with the college, Victim Support and the Ministry of Education to ensure all parties involved in the incident obtain the appropriate level of support they need," he said.

"The investigation into how this tragedy happened is continuing, as is an investigation by the train's operators and the boy's death has been reported to the Coroner."

Brooke Stanley, who lives near the accident scene, said she heard a loud thud from the living room of her Firth St home.

She thought it was strange that she could still hear the train's engine running so went outside to take a look.

She saw the young boy's friends "in a complete panic".

Mrs Stanley's neighbour Stephen Webber also heard a loud noise but didn't think anything of it "until I saw the train reversing".

"It just came back in a hell of a hurry. The driver must have realised that he had hit something."

Mr Webber, a truck driver, said ambulance and Fire Service personnel arrived within minutes.

"I could see the ambulance staff working on the body but it was no good," he said.

"The fire brigade came in and put a cover over the body."

Mr Webber said many children crossed the tracks every day to get to a park and BMX track and he doubted whether putting a fence alongside the line would have helped.
"Not unless it was eight feet tall and had barbed wire on it," he said.

Samara Smith-Riggir, a friend of the dead boy, said it was possible he was wearing headphones at the time of the accident.

"In class he usually had one earphone in so he could listen to music and to the teacher at the same time.

"He had a lot of friends and kind of seemed like the leader of the group at times ... I think a lot of people will take this quite hard," said the 14-year-old.

A KiwiRail spokeswoman said last night that the train was heading south from Hamilton to Kinleith.

Two staff on board had been sent home.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 03 Sep 2014 14:54:33 Processing Time: 546ms