Coroner recommends clearing trees after train hits car

By Kieran Campbell

The train, travelling about 69km/h, sounded its horn about 100m from the crossing. Photo / Thinkstock
The train, travelling about 69km/h, sounded its horn about 100m from the crossing. Photo / Thinkstock

A woman killed when she drove into the path of a freight train may have had an obstructed view of the locomotive through a line of trees, a coroner has found.

Rosalyn Sylvia Yong's vehicle was dragged half a kilometre when it was hit by a train at a level crossing at Levin in December.

Coroner Tim Scott has recommended that KiwiRail clear two rows of trees, with permission from private land owners if necessary, because they may have been what caused Ms Yong to drive on to the railway line.

The train's driver, Christopher Steel, first noticed Ms Yong's car when it was "within only a few metres of the crossing and he sounded the whistle or the horn ... with more intensity".

The train, travelling about 69km/h, sounded its horn about 100m from the crossing but the "collision was imminent".

Mr Steel said he used the emergency brake as soon as the train collided with the car because he didn't have enough time before impact.

The car became caught under the train and was dragged about 657m.

Mr Steel said when he checked the car it was clear Ms Yong, 69, was dead and a dog in the back of the car was also killed.

Coroner Scott said it would be "completely unfair and unreasonable" to suggest Mr Steel should have reacted more quickly.

"Even had he been able to react slightly more quickly to the developing emergency it would have made no real difference," he said.

"He would not have been able to stop the locomotive before it reached the intersection nor would he have been able to give sufficient warning to Sylvia so that she could stop her vehicle before it reached the intersection.

"By that time the die was cast and a crash was inevitable."

Coroner Scott said the sun was directly behind the approaching train and may have also hindered Ms Yong's sight.

He said it "must remain a possibility" that Ms Yong was distracted by the dog in her car or that she simply did not look.

Coroner Scott said "a simple and cheap way to improve visibility" would be to cut the seven trees bordering the road and the railway line.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 18 Dec 2014 11:45:00 Processing Time: 563ms