People rush to help driver escape crash
‘‘... and that's when I saw them all running from the car and then I could hear the sound of the brakes and the horn from the train.’’
Taui Johnson had just bought a moccachino on a fine Waikato morning and was driving south when he slammed on his brakes.
‘‘There was a bloody car stuck in the middle of the railway tracks,’’ Johnson said.
It was about 20 minutes past seven on Saturday when he came on the scene where State Highway 27 crosses the railway tracks in the south end of Matamata.
About five people were around the car when Johnson stopped and wound down his window. He could hear the crashed car’s horn constantly sounding. He whipped out his camera and started shooting.
‘‘I thought, this will be good for My Story on Snapchat and that’s when I saw them all running from the car and then I could hear the sound of the brakes and the horn from the train and that’s when I realised, holy moly, there is actually a train coming here.’’
Everyone around the car scattered and about 10 seconds later, the train smashed into the car.
‘‘That’s when I thought, I hope there’s no one stuck in the car.’’ There wasn’t. A nearby resident said the driver, a man in his 40s, had been heading north from the racecourse and hit the signal box as he crossed over the tracks.
His car ended metres from the road, sitting at right angles to the tracks. He was helped from the wrecked car by locals and there was no one else in the Hyundai.
The back end of the car was still on the tracks when the northbound freight train carrying logs to Tauranga hit it.
The resident said the train driver tried to stop, but couldn’t.
Johnson, whose father is a train driver, was concerned for those on board the train.
‘‘He wouldn’t have known what was going on inside the car or, in fact, if anyone was inside the car.’’
The train was going ‘‘slow enough’’ when it hit the rear section of the car, spinning it 90 degrees. The train came to a stop a short distance later.
Emergency services were called at 7.21am on Saturday to the crash on the rail tracks at the south end of Matamata on State Highway 27.
The driver, the sole occupant, was helped from the car before the train hit it, Northern Fire Communications shift manager Colin Underdown.
Ambulance staff also attended the scene and police said there were no injuries.
A transformer was damaged, according to the fire service. Roads were briefly closed around the crash site.
The crossing at Firth Street and SH27 was where a train hit a car. Taui Johnson