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Cell phone used before fatal train strike

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 22/09/2016

A 24-year-old man killed when he stepped in front of a train at an Auckland station last year was plugged into his mobile phone at the time.

An investigation into the death of Tejas Patel at Morningside Station in January 2015 has revealed he was captured on security cameras with his earphones connected to his mobile phone before he was fatally struck by a passenger train.

"The pedestrian was very likely distracted by his mobile phone," the Transport Accident Investigation Commission report found.

It said the train driver sounded a whistle twice before the accident while the bells, warning lights and barrier arms at a nearby level crossing were operating at the time.

The commission said it was unable to determine if sound was coming from the earphones but said it was possible if there was that it may have masked the sound of the whistle and the crossing warning devices.

The train driver tested positive for cannabis but the report cleared him of any blame. He was stood down for six weeks and undertook a drug and rehabilitation programme and returned to work after passing a drug test.

Train operator Transdev has since introduced random drug and alcohol testing regime.

Safety improvements, including automatic gates and more warning lights and bells, have been made to Morningside Station, where another person was struck and killed in 2002, to prevent pedestrians from inadvertently stepping in front of trains.

The investigation uncovered that neither KiwiRail nor Auckland Transport were aware who was responsible for pedestrian safety in and around rail crossings.

The Transport Agency had carried out a stocktake of level crossings in Auckland and Wellington to check on their safety while it was writing to authorities to ensure crossings in the regions underwent a similar safety review.

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