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A truck driver who died after his vehicle collided with a train had earlier told a colleague how he was looking forward to playing with his children at the end of the day.
The 28-year-old father of two, understood to be from Hamilton, died after his Porter Group articulated truck collided with the southbound Northern Explorer passenger train about 9.45am yesterday on Te Onetea Rd near Rangiriri in Waikato.
The truck disintegrated in the crash and its engine was torn out and thrown about 35m into a paddock.
The company's general manager of sales and marketing, Darren Ralph, said the dead man's family and workmates were grieving at the loss of the well-known and popular driver, who had worked for Porter Group for two years.
Mr Ralph said the man was shifting some heavy machinery for a client when the accident happened.
"We were actually chatting to the contractors today and one of the last to speak to him was discussing with him how excited he was to get home to his kids."
Waikato road policing chief Inspector Freda Grace said investigations were under way into the cause of the crash.
None of the 108 passengers on the train was injured.
KiwiRail chief Jim Quinn said the level crossing had a stop sign but no barrier arms or bells. It was typical of many around the country and the accident, while tragic and the first at the site, did not mean changes were necessary. "We have stop signs on the rail network everywhere that work perfectly fine. It's a country dirt road and the road is probably not used a lot. It's probably the right level of security for that road.
"We've just got to find out what caused this and learn from that."
Mr Quinn said the train driver had been taken back to Auckland, where he was being offered victim support.
The passengers, who had boarded the train in Auckland, continued their journey south after a delay of nearly four hours.
However, they got only as far as Te Kuiti before being delayed for a second time after a forest fire broke out at 3.20pm. They were still stranded there at 10 last night. The train was meant to have arrived in Wellington at 6.25pm.
- James Ihaka of the New Zealand Herald