Karamea Matthes is determined to do all she can to prevent another mother from going through the same heartbreak she has endured this past year.

On April 20 last year, her 16-year-old son Keenan Matthes accidentally crossed railway tracks in front of a train at the Metcalfe Rd level crossing in Ranui, West Auckland.

He was struck and died instantly.

The budding rugby star was out for an early morning run and had been wearing headphones at the time.

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Since his death, the Matthes family have been working hard to get their message across - that all level crossings need to be fitted with automatic gates.

Keenan's parents have been researching various pedestrian accidents at rail crossings around the country, their causes, and ways that might help stop future tragedies.

"A couple of weeks after our son passed, we sat back and thought: 'What can we do'? Starting off, we wrote letters.

"It's not an isolated incident - there have been accidents prior to my son's accident. But we wanted to make sure that it's the last one to ever happen."

They sought help from local politicians and got behind the One Ear Out movement, an international campaign calling on people to drop at least one of their headphones when out and about, in a bid to save lives.

Massey High School student Keenan Matthes, 16, died when he was struck by a train while out for a run last year. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Massey High School student Keenan Matthes, 16, died when he was struck by a train while out for a run last year. Photo / Brett Phibbs

They also looked at technology that could help, including a cellphone app that would alert a user that they were approaching railway tracks or technology that would automatically shut down a phone if a train was coming.

"We highlighted all of our concerns and what we found troubling. To really fully understand how it could happen, we had to walk that same pathway my son took, as hard as it was."

The solution found, apart from an overbridge, was automatic safety swing gates.

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The first set was installed at the Metcalfe Rd crossing and was blessed two days before Keenan's 17th birthday in January.

This month, Auckland Transport and KiwiRail announced they would be rolling out a new set of automatic safety swing gates at level crossings at the Baldwin Ave Station, Fruitvale Rd Station and Mt Albert Station as part of a project to keep pedestrians safe.

A sensor on the tracks activates the gates when a train is approaching. Bells sound and red lights begin to flash as the gates automatically close.

There is also an emergency gate operational only from the other side if anyone happens to find themselves stuck on the wrong side of the gate.

Level crossings at Woodward Rd and Lloyd Ave, in Mt Albert, are next on the list and all are due to be operational by June.

As for Keenan's family, they continue to support one another and remember the boy whose life was lost on the tracks.

Karamea Matthes, whose son Keenan was struck and killed by a train at the level crossing in Ranui, West Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Karamea Matthes, whose son Keenan was struck and killed by a train at the level crossing in Ranui, West Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs

"To have what we're pushing for be implemented around important dates of our son was like getting confirmation from him to keep going,'' Karamea Matthes said.

"Now that the gates are in, I thank my son. At least something's coming from it."