Talks af­ter tragedy

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page - By MARYANNE TWENTYMAN and CHRIS GARD­NER

On Thurs­day last week, Mata­mata Col­lege students gath­ered at the rail­way line where year 11 stu­dent Zak Lang was fa­tally hit by a train the day be­fore.

The students cried, held hands and hugged as they strug­gled to come to terms with his death.

In a state­ment from a fam­ily friend, Zak’s par­ents Ta­nia and Ian said their son was ‘‘a neat kid, a typ­i­cal 15-year-old teenage boy with a cheeky na­ture and smile’’.

Their son was re­port­edly skip­ping class with two friends when he was killed by the lo­co­mo­tive.

The in­ci­dent hap­pened on a stretch of tree-shaded track run­ning par­al­lel to Firth St shortly be­fore 3pm, nearly half-an-hour be­fore school fin­ished.

A Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion trauma team was work­ing with col­lege coun­sel­lors, staff and students.

Mayor Hugh Ver­coe said the coun­cil would be call­ing a meet­ing with Ki­wiRail to dis­cuss the in­ci­dent and what could be done to pre­vent fur­ther tragedies.

‘‘It con­cerns me that pre­dicted freight is go­ing to be in­creas­ing; they won’t be slow­ing down for Mata­mata – [freight trains] will get longer and faster,’’ he said.

Ki­wiRail se­nior com­mu­ni­ca­tions ad­viser Jenni Austin said the com­pany ran about eight ser­vices a day through Mata­mata, known as the Kin­leith branch, where the max­i­mum speed for lo­co­mo­tives was 70kmh.

‘‘Our thoughts at this time are with the fam­ily and friends of the boy killed in the in­ci­dent.

‘‘In­ci­dents such as these are very dis­tress­ing, par­tic­u­larly for our staff in­volved,’’ she said.

‘‘Trains are heavy and take a long time to stop, so there is lit­tle more train crews can do ex­cept pull on the brakes and sound the horn and hope for the best,’’ she said.

Ki­wiRail had in­stalled a fence through the heart of Mata­mata over the past 12 months to keep pedes­tri­ans away from the tracks.

The new fence ended be­fore Mata­mata Col­lege so Mr Ver­coe said there would be dis­cus­sions to work out a plan to have the fence ex­tended be­yond Swap Park.

Mr Ver­coe’s stance on the rail­way track is­sue will be wel­comed by par­ent Travis Fer­gu­son who was alarmed to see students still walk­ing along and cross­ing the rail­way line last week.

‘‘ I was sur­prised to see kids cross­ing the tracks and I do think it needs to be ad­dressed by not only the school but the en­tire community,’’ he said.

Mr Fer­gu­son said he hoped the speed of trains as they passed through town would be re­viewed.

‘‘I also think that they should look at sound­ing the train’s horn as they pass by the col­lege.’’

Stick­ing to­gether: Students from Mata­mata Col­lege visit the site where year 11 stu­dent Zak Lang was fa­tally struck by a train last week.

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