Matthew Backhouse is a NZME. News Service journalist based in Auckland.

Teen killed by train after falling asleep beside tracks - coroner

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A Canterbury teenager who was struck and killed by a train had fallen asleep beside the tracks after drinking at a pub, a coroner has found.

Daniel John Genet, 19, was hit by a northbound train at Hinds, south of Ashburton, early on the morning of April 29 last year.

An inquest heard he had been drinking and playing pool with friends at the Hinds Tavern, opposite the train tracks, before leaving without telling anyone where he was going.

He had also smoked cannabis that evening.

Mr Genet's family believes he was sitting up and sending a text message when the accident happened, but Coroner Richard McElrea found there was clear evidence he was not texting at the time, and had been asleep beside the tracks.

The inquest heard Mr Genet had been drinking with two friends on a Saturday night before all three decided to go to the Hinds Tavern.

Mr Genet had been in good spirits and had been texting at least one woman. He then left the tavern unannounced and ended up by the train tracks directly opposite the pub.

His friends noticed he was missing and went to look for him at the house where they had been drinking. They could not find him and returned to the tavern to find emergency services at the railway line.

Mr Genet had been struck by the cowcatcher of a train that was travelling about 80km/h with a full light beam shortly after 1am.

The learner train driver, who was being supervised at the time, told the inquest he had noticed something beside the tracks and realised it was a person.

"I then noticed he had white shoes and was curled up in a ball. The next thing I heard was a thud so I used the emergency brake."

Mr Genet was thrown onto a grass area beside the tracks.

The train's engineer found him and made sure emergency services were notified. He tried to signal tavern patrons with his torch, but received no response.

The engineer covered Mr Genet with a high-visibility vest and did not move him. He was declared dead when an ambulance arrived.

A post-mortem examination found his death was caused by impact injuries to his head, spine, chest, abdominal organs and limbs. The injuries were consistent with being struck while tying down.

Toxicology results showed he may have been smoking cannabis and had a blood alcohol level of 158mg/100ml - more than three times the legal limit for drivers aged under 20 of 50mg/100ml.

Coroner McElrea noted that family members and at least one friend believed Mr Genet had been sitting up and texting when he was struck.

However, phone records showed his last text message was sent at 1.06am, while the train's records showed the emergency brake was engaged some seven minutes later.

"The evidence is clear that he was not texting at the time of impact. He was asleep beside the railway track," Coroner McElrea said.

He found Mr Genet had failed to respond to the lights and sound of the oncoming train. The death was unintentional.


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