Truck collides with train near Ashburton

By Kurt Bayer of APNZ, Michelle Nelson of the Ashburton Guardian

The driver of a truck which collided with a train near Ashburton this morning has been airlifted to Christchurch Hospital.

St John media spokesman Ian Henderson said the Westpac Rescue Helicopter had been dispatched to Ashburton Hospital, where the seriously injured man was taken following the crash.

The incident occurred shortly after 8am on the Northpark Rd crossing, which was due for upgrade within months.

A southbound train struck the westbound truck, belonging to WaterForce, shunting it about 20m from the crossing. The cab of the truck was extensively damaged by the impact.

Ashburton police, along with fire and ambulance services, attended the scene.

The driver of the truck was taken to Ashburton Hospital with serious injuries.

KiwiRail said the train driver was "very shaken" by the incident.

"Our first priority in incidents like this is the welfare of those involved -- our thoughts are with the driver of the truck involved and his family," said senior communications advisor David Miller.

"Our train driver was very shaken by the incident -- he will be given some time off and offered counselling, as is our standard practice."

The level crossing, which has 'Give Way' signs and 'Railway Crossing' signs, is scheduled to be upgraded with new flashing lights and bells within the next two to three months.

There had been two previous collisions at the level crossing, which is used by about 900 vehicles per week day.

It was the scene of another crash involving a truck in May last year. Sunstrike was blamed on that occasion.

In 2002 a motorcyclist was killed at the crossing after he was struck by a train.

"We would like to remind motorists to approach all level crossings with care -- trains can be travelling faster than they appear, cannot stop quickly or swerve," said Mr Miller.

"Motorists need to be prepared to stop and check there are no trains coming from either direction before entering a crossing."

- APNZ

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