Victim ‘very likely’ distracted by phone
A pedestrian hit and killed by a train at an Auckland station was ‘‘very likely’’ distracted by using his mobile phone when he stepped in front of the train, an investigation has found. A just-released Transport Accident Investigation Commission into the January 2015 death at Morningside station of 24-year-old Tejas Patel found he had passed through an unguarded opening and stepped in front of the approaching train. The commission found that the train was being driven at below the maximum line speed, and the barriers and warning devices at the adjacent Morningside Drive road level crossing were working correctly. However there was insufficient protection at the bottom of the platform ramp to prevent pedestrians inadvertently walking out in front of trains. It also said that Tejas, at the time the main breadwinner for his family back home in India, ’’was very likely ... distracted by the use of his mobile phone when he stepped out in front of the train’’. The commission said a ’’key lesson’’ arising from its inquiry related to the use of mobile devices by pedestrians, which had been found to make them less aware of hazards around them. ‘‘Rail operators and providers of rail infrastructure must factor this into their risk assessments when designing safety into rail infrastructure,’’ the commission said. Following the accident which killed her only child, Tejas’ mother joined voices calling for greater safety at New Zealand rail crossings. She said pedestrian crossing barriers could prevent another tragedy. An outpouring of support from Auckland’s Indian community helped raise $10,000 so Teja’s body could be taken home to India. Auckland Transport said it had made safety improvements to the Morningside platform after the commission early in its inquiry made three urgent recommendations to the NZ Transport Agency around upgrading protection arrangements for pedestrians exiting the station platform. The commission said the agency should clarify who was responsible for controlling and protecting pedestrians as they crossed the boundaries between railway stations and the rail corridor in the Auckland metro network. It also called for a review of all pedestrian level crossings to ensure they were safe.