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.

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