Onepu resident Cathy Olifiers says the 49-year-old driver who was hit by a train as he crossed State Highway 30 on Monday morning was a very lucky man.
Olifiers and her children were in the car directly behind the man when he drove onto the tracks and the train collided with the front of his car.
"Our driveway is about 50m from the tracks on the Rotorua side," Olifiers said.
"Monday's fog was incredibly heavy and I have to admit I didn't initially see the glow from the crossing lights but my children did and pointed it out before we turned onto the State Highway."
She realised the driver in front of her, whom she believes was not driving in excess of the 100km/h limit, was not going to stop as she did not see any brake lights as he approached the crossing.
"I have to admit when I heard the bang I reacted really badly, I was screaming and carrying on until I saw his door open and then I came right. My children were amazing, they were telling me to calm down from the start."
Olifiers said the driver managed to get himself out of his car and she and another motorist helped him into another vehicle that had stopped.
"He was in a lot of pain and just wanted me to hold his hand. He did manage to say a couple of things while we waited for emergency services, including something about driving to the conditions."
Her children ran to the man's house on Onepu Springs Rd to let family know about the incident."
After the collision, the man's grey car remained in the middle of the highway and others motorists who had stopped to help were standing around it.
"The fog was still really dense and visibility was poor, I was terrified another car was going to plough into everyone at 100km/h."
Olifiers, having lived close to the State Highway 30 crossing for more than 30 years, did not think barrier arms were the solution, especially in fog.
"On the approach to the tracks, at least on the Rotorua side, there are two road signs warning of trains and then the lights. I believe the lights, which I guess are about 2m before the tracks, are too close.
Sergeant Dale Allison, who is acting officer in charge of the Kawerau Station, said the car had been travelling from Onepu toward Te Teko while the train was travelling in a northerly direction toward Kawerau.
"We are still in the early stages of the investigation but can say road and weather conditions have more than likely played a part in the incident. The fog was thick and the road wet."
He said it had not been determined whether charges would be laid as a result of the collision.
The 49-year-old man was discharged from Whakatāne Hospital the afternoon following the crash.