A plea has gone out for drivers to be cautious at level
crossings after a teenager was killed and her 17-year-old
driver seriously injured when they collided with a commuter
Carterton schoolgirl Grace Ellen Diedrichs, 15, died just
after 8.15am when the train slammed into the ute she was a
Police said the southbound commuter train was passing the
crossing at Wiltons Rd, which is controlled by a stop sign,
when the collision happened. The vehicle Grace was in was
Senior Sergeant Carolyn Watson of Masterton said a
17-year-old male from Pahiatua was at the wheel.
"The car has actually hit the side of the train and it's spun
around, so the back of the cab is non-existent.
"The female passenger of the vehicle was ejected from the
vehicle and died at the scene."
The ute's driver was taken to Wairarapa Hospital with serious
head injuries. Mrs Watson said it was a miracle he survived.
"It's amazing that anybody survived, with the damage to the
The police serious crash unit had examined the scene but it
was too early to know why the vehicle did not stop.
The crossing had no lights or barrier arms and a KiwiRail
spokeswoman said the train would have been going about 80km/h
when the collision happened.
She said it was one of many uncontrolled level crossings
around the country.
About half of the country's 1400 level crossings have some
electronic warning systems such as flashing lights, bells or
barrier arms but there are still about 26 crashes a year
between cars and trains.
The spokeswoman said it was too early to say if the fatal
collision would prompt a review into the safety of the
Wiltons Rd crossing.
"KiwiRail urges people to be really cautious around rail
lines and when they're crossing lines," she said.
Last year, former test cricketer Chris Cairns launched a
national campaign aimed at preventing deaths at level
Rail Safety Week was aimed at both drivers and pedestrians,
and its main message was: "Use your brain, tracks are for
Cairns became a rail safety campaigner after his sister
Louise died in 1993 when a truck drove into a train she was
At the time, KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn said: "Every
single death or injury on the railway network is avoidable if
people approaching it actively recognise the hazards that
exist and obey the warning signs and signals."
There are 1330 level crossings around the country.
278 are protected by barrier arms and lights.
423 are protected by lights and bells.
629 have Stop or Give Way signs.
51 per cent of crashes happen at crossings not protected by
bells and/or barriers.
- Anna Leask and Rebecca Quilliam