Wellington Scoop

As investigation starts into fatal bus crash, sunstrike seen as possible cause

bus crash fatal cu

Report from RNZ
The driver of a school bus who died after a crash at Bunnythorpe yesterday might have been blinded by sunstrike, says Uzabus managing director Justin Allan.

“It’s been a huge shock for everyone here. We’re a pretty close-knit team, so to have something like this happen is quite devastating,” Allan said. “The driver, she has been with us about three or four years so a solid part of the team, so very upsetting.”

The company is working closely with authorities to find the cause of the collision with the train north of Palmerston North, just before 8am. An internal investigation will consider the vehicle, the driver and will review the stop at the railway crossing at the intersection of Railway Road and Clevely Line, Allan said.

The driver was “very familiar” with the route, he said. “There has been some mention of sunstrike being a contributing factor.”

The driver was well known by the children and would be missed, he said. “The driver she was very passionate… she loved her kids. They will certainly be feeling this, without a doubt.”

KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller said the train driver was the only person onboard the train when the crash occurred. The train driver was not physically hurt, but was shaken by the crash, which caused minor damage to the train.

News from TAIC
The Transport Accident Investigation Commission has opened an inquiry into the causes and circumstances of a the accident involving a railway locomotive and a school bus yesterday morning.

The circumstances reported to date are that a school bus with passengers struck a locomotive at Clevely Line level crossing between Palmerston North and Bunnythorpe. The bus driver was fatally injured as a result of the accident.

It is reported that the level crossing was protected with flashing lights and bells.

Naveen Kozhuppakalam, the Acting Chief Investigator of Accidents, says there may be people who saw what happened, given the location of the accident on a main road at a relatively busy time of day.

“TAIC is appealing for any witnesses – especially anyone who may have captured the accident on their vehicle’s dash-cam — to please contact TAIC as soon as possible.” said Mr Kozhuppakalam. “Witnesses should email TAIC at info@taic.org.nz.”

Mr Kozhuppakalam has appointed two investigators, who arrived on site yesterday afternoon.

“The Investigation team have expert knowledge of train operations, engineering and maintenance. Their initial work will include inspecting the locomotive and the bus, mapping the site, examining rail systems such as the signals, examining vehicle components, seeking any recorded data from the vehicles’ electronics, and obtaining maintenance records. They will also interview the train driver, other staff, and any witnesses.”

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission opens an inquiry when it believes the circumstances of an accident or incident have – or are likely to have – significant implications for transport safety, or when the inquiry may allow the Commission to make findings or recommendations to improve transport safety.

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