Union official seeks answers after fatal truck crashes

By Andrew Koubaridis, Northern Advocate

Firefighters and St John staff attend to one of the drivers involved in the Kerikeri crash yesterday. Photo / APN
Firefighters and St John staff attend to one of the drivers involved in the Kerikeri crash yesterday. Photo / APN

A second fatal collision between two trucks in just over a week has left a union official asking what more can be done to stop people dying.

A driver was killed about 6.20am yesterday in Kerikeri and another was injured and had to be cut free of the wreckage by firefighters. The accident followed a head-on crash on the East Coast last week, which killed a driver and seriously injured another.

In another accident yesterday, a truck was cut in half and debris scattered for 500m when it was hit by a train at a rail crossing in Ashburton but the driver walked away without serious injury.

Karl Andersen, secretary of transport and logistics for the First Union, last night was seeking answers to stop truck deaths.

"Something needs to be done, there's too many of them. Something isn't right - is it because of fatigue or the trucks are not maintained, is it the standard of driving ...? Or is it we're pushing people into driving heavy vehicles when they shouldn't be?"

Mr Andersen said there needed to be a detailed analysis of each crash to determine what lessons, if any, could be learned. Even though truck crash deaths were falling, they were still higher than they needed to be.

He said there were about 50 deaths a year but they were disproportionate to the number of trucks on the roads. "Heavy trucks are over-represented in the statistics."

He was reluctant to comment on yesterday's crashes until he knew what the cause was - and that could be some time away as inquests often weren't held for months afterwards.

In the Kerikeri crash, one driver died despite a two-and-a-half hour battle by rescuers to free him from his crushed cab.

The crash happened when a truck carrying a container pulled out of a packhouse driveway and collided with a truck and trailer heading towards town.

The impact shunted the container from the K&S Freighters truck and crushed the cab of the PBT Transport truck, trapping the driver's head and legs.

Volunteer firefighters from Kerikeri and Paihia worked to free the driver, a painstaking process carried out in bitterly cold rain and occasional squalls, while St John medics tried to keep him comfortable and stable.

The truck's cargo - beer, large vats of honey, tyres and other goods - had shifted forward in the crash and was pushing up against the rear of the cab, so had to be removed before the driver could be freed.

Despite his injuries the driver was conscious and talking but deteriorated rapidly about 9am as his legs were freed from the wreckage. He had suffered serious crush injuries to his lower body.

Police have yet to release his name but he was understood to be from Auckland. The other driver suffered only minor injuries and was taken to Bay of Islands Hospital.

Fire Service Muriwhenua area manager Allan Kerrisk praised emergency personnel for a "tremendous effort in trying conditions".

"They are obviously disappointed with the outcome, but know they've done the best they could."

Senior Sergeant Peter Robinson, of Kerikeri police, said emergency services had done everything they could to save the driver.

It was too early to say what had caused the crash or whether it could have been avoided.

- NZ Herald

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