A Tragedy That Should Not Happen


There are no winners in the case of the Auckland man on manslaughter charges for driving around a barrier arm and into the path of an on-coming train in Pukekohe

His four year old son died and the man is now on bail pending sentences after a jury today found him guilty.

He was also found guilty of dangerous driving causing injury to his two other children aged 2 and 6 and his 12 year old niece.

The court had been told the man not only took no notice of the flashing lights and horn but actually drove around the level crossing barrier arm resulting in the express train having no choice but to slam into the back of his car.

His lawyer argued he was distracted and didn’t notice the alarms or lights.

I can’t even imagine how this unthinkable tragedy could happen with someone with his children in the car or how he could not think barrier arms meant a train was coming.

I wasn’t in court so don’t know all the facts , so let’s not discuss them here and comment only on the general problem.

A jury did hear the case, considered the arguments  and reached its verdict.

During the time the case has been on, I have been taking special notice of the impatient behavior of motorists at a level crossing I pass by each day , noting vehicles doing U-turns to try to find another route to avoid waiting just a few minutes.

Even more hair raising is to watch so many pedestrians seem to think the barrier arms do not apply to them and have no hestitation risking trying to fly through before the train arrives as if their legs can beat the train if it suddenly arrives around the corner.

A coincidence but the trial started during the annual rail safety week, promoted by Chris Cairns. NZ has such an appalling record for level crossing accidents.

One can only hope the trial verdict and subsequent sentence gets enough publicity, that everyone will pause for a moment, think about the effect on this man’s family and the man himself and never ever think of taking even the slightest risk at a crossing.

And what of the poor train driver who was just doing his job and now has to cope with re-living the nightmare of what happened, all because of one person’s appalling judgement.




  1. LarryH says:

    Try stopping on a push bike at the rail boom, and then making the row of cars behind you wait until the bells stop (the real time it is legal to proceed) rather than just rushing under the boom as it rises.

    Always good for a horn to two.

  2. Richard says:

    What’s particularly annoying about incidents like this is the lack of ACC cover for the driver who invariably suffers Post Traumatic Stress. To have a claim for mental injury you have to suffer physical injury as well which is hardly likely to be the case for the driver of a train hitting a car.

    The daft Government in 1992 removed mental injury claims from ACC cover then several years ago another government reintroduced mental trauma but only for sexual assault victims which i consider is victim discrimination. The rape victims are now complaining ACC make them establish their injury more by specialist consultation……..what about the poor loco driver or bank robbery victim who have no claim at all??

    If you don’t have ACC cover of course you can sue but there is no insurance in NZ now for personal injury liability (because it’s covered by ACC). This means it is often a case of getting blood out of a stone.

    It would be interesting to know if any locomotive drivers who have suffered mental trauma following such accidents(to them) have sued the drivers or their estates following level crossing smashes since 1992.

  3. Joshua says:

    Richard - Does Kiwi-Rail not provide councilling after such events? I agree it should be part of ACC. But many companies who have work related deaths or Traumatic events actually provide councilling themselves, so would be keen to see if kiwi-rail would do so to.

  4. Paul says:

    I agree this is an extremely sad case with no winners.

    It staggers me how level crossing accidents occur - there is no excuse for them.

    My hope is that the man found guilty is harshly convicted to send a clear message to the public. I accept accidents do happen but virtually all level crossing accidents are due to reckless driving by motorists.

  5. Richard says:

    I understand counselling is provided Joshua but this should be paid by ACC as it was pre 1992
    I suffer from PTSD from an accident I had in 1987 and still suffer from it now. My physical injuries only prevented me from doing my work for periods after each of the multiple operations I had. I eventually had a breakdown in 1990 forcing me to stop work and ACC paid me earnings compensation until I turned 65yrs of age.

    I understand despite counselling some locomotive drivers have to give up driving which must affect them financially and in many other ways. PTSD certainly is not recommended!!


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