Multi-sport legend Steve Gurney could face driving charges after he escaped almost unscathed when a passenger train struck his car at a crossing yesterday.
The crash happened just before 7.30am at the railway crossing on Marsh Rd, Southbrook, Rangiora.
Gurney, the sole occupant of the Subaru Outback 4WD, escaped with only minor injuries. The passengers and driver of the train were also uninjured.
There are no warning bells, lights or barrier at the crossing.
But there is a stop sign and a warning saying: "Look for trains".
The president of the Canterbury-Westland branch of the New Zealand Law Society, Allister Davis, said Mr Gurney could be charged with careless use of a motor vehicle, depending on the circumstances of the crash, as it was the obligation of the driver to judge when it was safe to cross.
Police said it was too early to say if charges would follow.
Gurney, nine times winner of the Speights Coast to Coast, declined to comment about the possibility of charges.
He said the crash was a blur and he was still trying to piece together what went wrong.
"I'm confused about how I ended up T-boning with a train.
"I'm a professional athlete that's used to looking for danger, I'm the last person that expects to have a crash with a train. It raises questions how did I get in that situation?"
What he does remember is seeing the train about 10m away before it hit.
"I saw this massive hunk of steel coming at me and thought 'oh my god', it was just like in the movies," he said.
But what he will never forget is the look of relief on the train driver's face as he ran towards his vehicle after the crash and saw he was alive.
Gurney can't believe he walked away with only a scratch on his hand and whiplash.
"I'm still dumbfounded," he said.
"I've used a lot of my nine lives - still, I was obviously meant to stay on this planet."
He put his survival down to two factors - a good car and learning how to "crash" when he was a child.
"I'd learnt as a kid how to crash. We were allowed to fall out of trees. We hurt ourselves, we broke bones and dislocated things.
"You learnt how to relax at the right moment.
"I've got scars but those scars taught me how to survive."
Sergeant Colin Stewart said police were investigating the crash.
He said it was miraculous that Gurney escaped uninjured.
Mr Stewart said drivers should approach railway crossings carefully and if there was a stop sign, stop and look both ways.
"It wouldn't be realistic to have barrier crossings and lights at all railway crossings," he said.
"Stop signs are there for that reason. Hundreds of people cross these every day and don't hit trains."
A KiwiRail spokeswoman said an incident report would be filed to ensure that all necessary safety and emergency procedures were undertaken.
"KiwiRail undertakes incident reports for every level crossing incident and we urge people to take care at level crossings."
She said the criteria to review the safety measures at a crossing included the number of collisions, injuries received, how busy the road was, how many trains used the track and the type of terrain.
- CHRISTCHURCH STAR